Opinion: Larry Nassar is not the only one to blame


Graphic by Jai Khurana

Skyler Bohnert

After nearly three decades of lying, manipulation, sexual abuse and emotional assault of young female gymnasts, former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has finally answered for his crimes, yet he is not the only one at fault.
Nassar’s set of trials was finally concluded on Feb. 5, 2018, after the court in Eaton County, Michigan sentenced him up to 125 years in jail, in addition to his 175-year punishment from the January hearing. During the hearing, 156 women spoke out against the former physician, including Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman.
In her statement at Nassar’s trial, Raisman said, “You [Nassar] are so sick that I can’t even comprehend how angry I feel when I think of you.” She added, “You lied to me and manipulated me to think that when you treated me you were closing your eyes because you had been working hard when you were really touching me, an innocent child, to pleasure yourself.”
Nassar molested and assaulted women as young as six years old. In 1994, Nassar allegedly assaulted Olympic medalist Jamie Dantzscher, who was just 12 years old at the time. Not two years later, Nassar was appointed national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics, who didn’t even care to look into any complaints, important or insignificant. Even before the hearing in December, Nassar faced controversy in 2015, after Michigan State University (MSU) gymnasts spoke up about his behavior, which prompted the university to  revoke his medical license in 2016.
So the question is, how did he get away with it for so long?
Throughout the entire case, Nassar was the center of criticism — of course, why wouldn’t he be? He used his position as a trusted medical physician to take advantage of young women, something which is widely accepted to be abhorrent. However, if there’s anything to take away from this landmark case, it is that any corporation, no matter how big or small, will do anything to protect their reputation and save face. Nassar was the one who molested and assaulted the children, using his position of power to give himself pleasure, but the organizations around him did nothing to stop him.
In her speech, Raisman called out USA Gymnastics and MSU for dismissing claims made against Nassar, saying that the organization “is rotting from the inside.” Since 1998, reports sent to MSU and USA Gymnastics concerning Nassar were ignored, and it was only in 2015 that the USA Gymnastics Board cut ties with him due to the increase in gymnasts coming forward, claiming Nassar had assaulted them.
McKayla Maroney, an Olympic gold medalist, was paid $1.25 million by USA Gymnastics to keep quiet about Nassar after he sexually abused her during her time with the team.
In his statement during a 2017 lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, Maroney’s lawyer, John Manly, said, “The U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics were well aware that the victim of child sexual abuse in California cannot be forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement as a condition of a settlement.” He added that, “Such agreements are illegal for very good reasons—they silence victims and allow perpetrators to continue committing their crimes. That is exactly what happened in this case.”
USA Gymnastics is not the only corporation to hide Nassar and his scandals. MSU is currently under attack for covering up Nassar’s crimes. Although the new investigation on MSU has forced them to apologize to the victims and start a $10-million fund for the survivors, both USA Gymnastics and MSU are liable for protecting a criminal and allowing him to continue sexually harassing girls for nearly 30 years.
It is horrifying to see the distances corporations go to maintain their reputation. USA Gymnastics didn’t cut ties with Nassar because he committed a grievous crime—they did it to save face, trying to put themselves ‘in the right’ when Nassar was caught. Although it’s not unheard of for associations to pull a stunt like this to preserve reputation, it’s shocking to see such a big administration like USA Gymnastics act so selfishly.
Accounts of sexual assault and harassment related to Nassar were ignored by the USA Gymnastics Board. The medical doctor who had long been accused of taking advantage of his title was only being praised and awarded by the major association. Although Nassar is the one being sentenced to life in prison, USA Gymnastics is in no way in the right.
The USA Gymnastics Board members are being forced to resign, but this is a minor slap on the wrist at best. They ignored what was happening to their gymnasts, letting a criminal pleasure himself with young women. The Board should be forced to change their policies; extensive background checks should be enforced even more than before, and complaint charges need to be addressed seriously. If the Board doesn’t change, then another Nassar-like figure will emerge, abusing their position only to benefit themselves.
The Nassar saga doesn’t end there. More and more victims—mostly from MSU—are coming out, and another court hearing is set to take place in the near future. Nassar was also charged with possessing child pornography in December 2017, and MSU Police are facing a large amount of criticism for ignoring a report filed by MSU cheerleader Amanda Thomashow in April 2014, roughly four years prior to Nassar’s hearing.
As she imposed Nassar’s sentence, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, the head judge for Nassar’s trial, said, “I just signed your death warrant.” The words that will haunt one of the most manipulative, disgusting and despicable doctor in sports history will also taint the prestige of every association involved.
Close to 200 years in prison, a disgraced reputation, and a crime that no one will ever forgive, the chances of Larry Nassar ever being able to redeem himself are slim. However, MSU, USA Gymnastics, and the United States Olympics Committee are responsible for his crimes. Their lack of interest and more self-centered beliefs let the disgraceful doctor continue with his ‘procedures’, monitored and unregulated throughout the years. Two hundred and fifty six young athletes had their emotional state ruined, and aspiring gymnasts were suddenly faced with the harsh reality that corporations care only about making money and preserving their reputation.