Photo: The New York Times

Larry Nassar: Corruption and Conviction

How Higher Misconduct Enabled Nassar's Abuse

In a Nutshell

McKenna Helfenberger

March 3rd, 2018

Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar has been sentenced for up to 175 years in prison for his charges. In Lansing, Michigan, more than 150 victims shared their stories of the abuse that they had endured under the care of Dr. Nassar. He gained these women’s and girls’ trust through gifts, invitations to his house, and coming to their aid when injured. When he gained their trust, he proceeded to molest them. Dr. Nassar pleaded guilty in November to seven counts of sexual assault—this hearing brought forth more victims to speak out against Dr. Nassar.


Olympic athletes treated by Dr. Nassar have come out as victims, including big names such as Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and McKayla Maroney. On January 15th, Biles tweeted, “For too long I’ve asked myself ‘Was I too naive? Was it my fault?’I now know the answer to those questions. No. No, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, U.S.A.G. and others.” Aly Raisman came forth as well in court to tell her account of her so-called therapeutic treatments given by Nassar.


Amanda Thomashow, a former Michigan State University student, expressed her distaste not only with Larry Nassar but all the institutions that allowed the molestation to occur. The organizations in power that had the ability to stop this abuse dismissed or brushed it aside. USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and the US Olympic Committee had many come to them with their stories of abuse by Larry Nassar and  ignored them. Amanda Thomashow came forward in court to condemn Michigan State University saying, "Michigan State University, the school I loved and trusted, had the audacity to tell me that I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure.” She continued, "That master manipulator took advantage of his title, he abused me, and when I found the strength to talk about what had happened, I was ignored and my voice was silenced."


This could have been stopped far earlier in 1997, the first time a Michigan State student reported Larry Nassar's “treatment” of a student gymnast. Merrily Dean Baker, the school’s athletic director from 1992 to 1995, attributes the systemic failure to the culture of the school. She argued that employees were allowed to be ignorant or dismissive of the law’s requirements. The faculty continued to receive complaints from 14 university employees. The employees did not act on these complaints. Michigan State’s eight-member Board of Trustees have been asked by the entire Michigan State faculty to resign.


Two-time Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman has sued the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics for the alleged abuse from Larry Nassar. This was announced Friday, March 2nd from her lawyers. "My highest priority has been to push for change, so future generations of athletes will be safer," Raisman said in a statement released to multiple media outlets; "It has become painfully clear that these organizations have no intention of properly addressing this problem." The lawsuit alleges that the USOC, "at the highest levels of its organization," was aware of Nassar's abuse and harassment of female gymnasts in his role as team doctor. Raisman believes the USOC ignored its own mandates "to protect its reputation and blind itself to known abusers within the ranks of the NGBs [national governing bodies] for which it is responsible."


After all this, a precedent must be set. Years of sexual abuse can no longer go and impact the lives of so many people, and this must be achieved by holding not only the abusers accountable, but also the institutions and companies that enable them.