By Katie Coble || News Editor
The world of women’s gymnastics has been shaken in recent months after revelations of child sex abuse by famed doctor Larry Nassar have come to light. Nassar was a sports-medicine doctor for the United States’ national gymnastics team and an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. Nassar pled guilty to sexual assault charges and was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on January 25, 2017. He previously pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges on November 22, 2017 and was sentenced to 60 years in prison for these crimes in December 2017.
Nassar was the team doctor for the USA women’s gymnastics team for nearly twenty years. According to NBC News, he was the subject of an internal investigation at Michigan State University in 2014 after a misconduct complaint was filed against him. The investigation led to no charges. A year later in 2015 he was fired from his position at USA Gymnastics “after learning of athlete concerns” and they referred him to local law enforcement. Nassar maintains that he retired from USA Gymnastics and did not retire.In September of 2016, Nassar was the subject of a piece in the Indianapolis Star in which two former gymnasts including Rachael Denhollander accused him of sexual assault. This news led Nassar to be fired from his job at Michigan State University, with the school stating he had broken “certain employment requirements” created after the 2014 complaint. Nassar was initially charged with the sexual assault of a minor in November 2016. Since then more than 250 women have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse.
These 250 women include many famous Olympians and Olympic medalists including Jamie Dantzscher, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, and Simone Biles. Maroney has alleged that Nassar repeatedly assaulted her when she was 13 continuing until her retirement at the age of 20. She has filed a lawsuit against Nassar, Michigan State University, the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics alleging that she was paid $1.25 million to sign a non-disclosure agreement in an attempt to cover up the abuse. Two-time Olympian Aly Raisman was one of hundreds of women to give a victim statement during Nassar’s sentencing.
Nassar sexually abused young girls for decades under the guide of providing a unique, top-notch medical treatment. His stellar reputation for treating Olympians, world champions, and collegiate stars made him an intimidating figure to accuse. Nassar sometimes assaulted girls with their parents in the room. All of his victims were minors at the time of the abuse, some as young as six years old.
The scandal has had far-reaching implications outside of Nassar himself. USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University all employed Nassar for decades. Questions have emerged about when they knew about Nassar’s behavior and what they did (or didn’t do) to stop it. Dozens of women have filed lawsuits against these organizations alleging that their accusations and concerns about Nassar’s behavior were ignored, disputed, and covered up.
USA Gymnastics announced on January 18, 2018 that they would be ending their association with Karolyi Ranch, the famed Texas training facility that served as the US National Team’s official training facility for more than 15 years. The camp is still owned by Bela and Martha Karolyi, arguably the most famous coaches in the history of gymnastics, supervising legends such as Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton. Both are now the subject of a lawsuit alleging they ignored routine sexual abuse by Nassar at their facility, despite Nassar being ineligible to practice medicine in the state of Texas. Gymnastics like Olympian Jamie Dantzscher have alleged that the Karolyi Ranch fostered an intense, competitive, and emotionally abusive environment where Nassar’s abuse was allowed to flourish.
The scandal has had a massive impact on the organizational structure of US Gymnastics, with president Steve Penny retiring in March 2017 in light of the allegations and the organization’s entire board of directors resigning following Nassar’s conviction. Valeri Liukin, the national team coordinator and father of Olympian Nastia Liukin, resigned from his position on February 2. The organization has also lost sponsorships and advertising deals with companies like T&T, Hershey Co., Kellogg, Procter & Gamble and Under Armor.
The scandal has also impacted Michigan State University and its local community of East Lansing. University president Lou Anna Simon and MSU’s head athletic director Mark Hollis have both resigned in wake of the Nassar trial.
News of Nassar’s sexual abuse comes at an especially important moment in light of the #MeToo movement, which survivors such as McKayla Maroney have specifically mentioned as motivating them to come forward about their experiences with Nassar. Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault and the last woman of more than 150 to give a victim impact statement during his trial, alluded to this movement while asking the judge to impose the maximum sentence on Nassar:
“Look around the courtroom, remember what you have witnessed these past seven days… This is what it looks like when institutions create a culture where a predator can flourish unafraid and unabated… It looks like a courtroom full of survivors who carry deep wounds. Women and girls who have banded together to fight for themselves because no one else would do it. Women and girls who carry scars that will never fully heal but who have made the choice to place the guilt and shame on the only person to whom it belongs, the abuser.”
Nassar, 54, is expected to spend the remainder of his life in prison.
Sophomore Katie Coble is the news editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.