Larry Nassar, former doctor for United States Gymnastics team and sports physician at Michigan State University, has been on trial for his abuse against more than 140 young girls and young women.
While initially charged with felony accounts of child pornography, Nassar has now had to face the music for his horrendous actions over the years.
But the question remains: how was he able to abuse so many before getting caught? And he wasn’t even caught initially for the abuse he dealt out.
Some of the most prolific names in gymnastics have been abused by Nassar: Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber. Nassar had access to so many young girls because of his high position at USA Gymnastics as well as the trust he was able to instill in the young girls.
USA Gymnastics, the organization that picks and trains the national competing teams for the Olympics and World Championship teams, failed its athletes. There’s even evidence that the organization knew something was happening between Nassar and its gymnasts and athletes.
When leaving USA Gymnastics, Maroney agreed to “a non-disclosure agreement contained in a settlement agreement [she] signed with USA Gymnastics, Maroney could face a $100,000 penalty for speaking about her alleged abuse or the settlement. Maroney reached a $1.25 million settlement deal with USA Gymnastics in December 2016; the agreement includes non-disparagement and confidentiality provisions. Last December, Maroney filed a lawsuit with USA Gymnastics and others seeking monetary damages and among other things asking the court to nullify those provisions,” Elle Magazine reported earlier this month.
USA Gymnastics back pedaled on this, releasing an official statement that it would not charge Maroney the $100,000 fine as per the agreement.
But it still stands that USA Gymnastics knew something was happening and still chose to protect the predator instead of the minors in its care.
Earlier this week, three members of the board stepped down: Paul Parilla, chairman; Jay Binder, vice chairman; and Bitsy Kelley, treasurer.
Scott Blackmun, the Olympic committee’s chief executive, said in a statement that his organization had been discussing board changes with USA Gymnastics since October. He said those talks escalated over the weekend, after days of victim-impact statements by former gymnasts in Michigan, and culminated in the decision by the three board members to give up their roles.
While this change can help in the overhaul of USA Gymnastics, it still stands that the organization let it happen. It let a predator have a high position in its institution. It is adults’ responsibilities to protect children, and USA Gymnastics wholeheartedly failed to do so.
Having conversations about what is appropriate touching and what isn’t is impactful and necessary for all. Even for doctors. Children should be told they are allowed to say “no” without fear of repercussion from an organization that could tell them whether or not they’re going to the Olympics.