Opinion: Larry Nassar’s crime can’t break gymnastics


By Audrey Fisher, sports managing editor

Former United States of America Gymnastics national team doctor, Michigan State osteopathic physician, and a formerly famous gymnastics and osteopathic doctor Larry Nassar now faces a minimum of 140 years and a maximum of 360 years in prison on counts of sexual assault, child pornography, and obstruction of evidence. Either way he will spend the rest of his life in jail.

Nassar was once considered a renowned doctor and traveled to several olympics, worked at hospitals and colleges, and traveled to local gymnastics gyms to “treat” patients. For decades USAG, MSU, and gym coaches enabled this horrible abuse to continue. With now 265 victims that have come forward this is rising as one of the most horrid abuse scandal in sports.

The fact that this happened at all is horrific. Gymnastics is a hard enough sport, but for national team members and USAG gymnasts they had to experience much more. But what we have to remember is, it’s not a disgrace to the sport. Gymnastics, like any sport, never boils down to the politics and the scandals of it. So many girls work so hard to be a gymnast and for those girls we can not say that gymnastics as a whole is ruined.

It is the people who enabled this, it is Larry Nassar, and it is the mentality that this is ok that is disgraceful. From a young age these girls were taught to listen to and to respect their coaches so when their coaches told them to go to Nassar for treatment, they did. And when Nassar took advantage of them, of course they didn’t say anything. All of their friends were being abused, their coaches told them to see him, and their parents took them to see him. The girls were so young they didn’t even think anything of it.

Victim blaming these girls, saying they should have spoke up, telling them they should have known; is unfair. Most of the times that these girls spoke up, nothing was done. Adults convinced them that a national team doctor would never do something like this, and that they were confused. Adults, whose job it is to protect these girls, did nothing to protect them.

In 2014 after MSU had been told about the abuse, and the police had been notified, Nassar continued to “treat” patients for 16 months. During this time prosecutors were given no information about the investigation or the abuse. Again, these adults who were supposed to do the right thing, which they never did. And they never protected the kids that needed their protection.

It wasn’t until August 4th, 2016 that people started paying attention. On that date the Indianapolis Star published an investigatory news article about USAG and how they handled, or rather hid, the abuse. This piece brought to light what many officials and members of USAG sought to hide and it took the gymnastics community by a storm. Sixteen days later Larry Nassar was released from his duties at MSU but it wasn’t until around a month later that Nassar was formally fired.

It has taken over a year for Nassars sentencing to conclude, but he has received 60 years for ten counts of sexual abuse, child pornography charges, and obstruction of evidence. He received another 40-175 in Ingham county all under a sexual assault plea deal, and 40-125 years in Cunningham county all for another sexual assault plea deal. Hundreds of survivors spoke at Nassars hearing, including former Olympians and national team members. All fighting for the same thing,  a change. By February first, 2018 all of USAG board members were required to resign by the United States Olympic Committee. The Karolyi Ranch, which was the site of the national team training camp where many former gymnasts were abused, has been shut down.

It seems that USAG is undergoing the changes it needs to create a safe environment for its members, but they still have a long way to go. Gymnasts around the country are uniting with this movement, wearing bows that have teal in them to represent the survivors. Olympians with leotard lines like Simone Biles are teaming up with the GK apparel brand to make leos that are teal and will donate money to the cause with every person who buys one.

It has been a fight for two years now, and much of the gymnastics community is still shaky, but with Nassar spending the rest of his life in prison, and most of the officials who enabled this gone, it seems that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But as said earlier, we as a society can not victim blame these girls, we can not disgrace their sport, and we can not give up on them.