The fight against Larry Nassar

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Larry Nassar was once known as an esteemed USA Gymnastics (USAG) and Michigan State University (MSU) doctor. Now, he will forever be known as a convicted sex offender.

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse. Nassar pleaded guilty to seven charges of criminal sexual conduct and to using his medical status to perform the assaults under the guise of medical treatments. This sentence runs consecutively with the 60 years in federal prison Nassar was issued in December due to child pornography charges.

“I’ve just signed your death warrant,” said Aquilina.

The sentence came after 156 women confronted Nassar during his trial. Nassar’s plea deal allowed these women to read their impact statements publicly in the courtroom. The women were allowed to address Nassar directly, but he mostly kept his eyes down.

Two months after his plea deal, Nassar wrote a six-page, single-spaced letter to Aquilina stating that he was not mentally able to listen to four days of impact statements and accusing her of turning the trial into a media frenzy for her own sake. Aquilina threw the letter aside, literally and figuratively, and proceeded with the trial. 

Courtesy of imgur.com

“Spending four or five days listening to them is significantly minor considering the hours of pleasure you had at their expense and ruining their lives,” said Aquilina.

The organizations had information ahead of time that could have stopped the abuse. In 1999, USAG filed a complaint to United States Olympic Committee (USOC) regarding the poor handling of predatory coaches. Nassar was employed by USAG until a complaint in 2015. MSU’s head gymnastics coach was notified of the abuse in 1997, and an assistant track coach was told in 1999. MSU President Lou Anna Simon was notified of a Title IX violation by a team physician in 2014. He was fired from MSU in 2016.  

The women’s previous attempts to report Nassar were not taken seriously. Kyle Stephens, the only non-medical victim to accuse Nassar, testified that she had reported Nassar to many individuals throughout the years including counselors, child protective services and her parents who were friends of Nassar. She even testified once to get his medical license revoked. She was 6 years old the first time he abused her.

“Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world,” said Stephens.

Other victims criticized the organizations for permitting the abuse to go on for so long.

Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney is another victim who has expressed frustration with the organizations. She filed a lawsuit in mid-December 2017 against the USOC and USAG. In the lawsuit she claimed these organizations paid her $1.25 million to keep the abuse a secret. USOC denied knowledge, and the payment was traced to USAG. USAG claims Maroney’s lawyer requested the money. This settlement prevented her from publicly discussing the abuse, and she is liable to be fined $100,000 if she breaks this. Chrissy Teigen offered to pay the fine so Maroney could testify, but Maroney had her victim statement read in court by another individual to avoid it. 

Aly Raisman, two-time Olympic team captain, has become the most active victim to vocalize Nassar’s abuse.

I am here to tell you that I will not rest until every last trace of your influence on this sport has been destroyed like the cancer it is,” said Raisman.

In her statement, Raisman revealed that Nassar had been on committees and boards which were designed to protect athletes from abuse.

I cringe to think that your influence remains in the policies that are supposed to keep athletes safe, that these organizations have for years claimed ‘state of the art,’” said Raisman in her statement.

Raisman also criticized the USOC during her victim statement for their lack of support to the victims and their absence from the trial. She has also called for an independent investigation of USAG and tweeted that USAG is “100% responsible.”

“Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force and you are nothing. The tables have turned, Larry. We have our voices, and we are not going anywhere,” said Raisman.

All members of the USAG Board of Directors have resigned. USAG ended its relationship with the Karolyi Ranch, the Texas gym that was formerly the USAG National Team training facility where much of the abuse happened. Gymnasts were still training at the Ranch the day USAG issued the termination.

The NCAA issued an investigation into MSU. Simon issued an apology to the victims and resigned during a December Board meeting Jan. 24, followed by the university’s athletic director Jan. 26.

The USOC issued an open letter to the victims but has not reached out to them individually, according to Olympian Simone Biles.

Photo courtesy of CBS Sports.

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