By: Julie Schmidt
Horrified does not begin to describe the way I feel about Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of female athletes, mainly gymnasts, and USA Gymnastics lack of action despite being aware of Nassar’s molestation and rape of their athletes. Until recently, Larry Nassar was the USA Gymnastics national team physician, treating hundreds of athletes over the course of his career. However, instead behaving appropriately and professionally, he abused his power as the team doctor and preyed upon the young female athletes that were isolated from their family and friends while training at the Karolyi Ranch. Elite gymnasts are constantly under pressure, so when Nassar offered candy that wasn’t allowed in their diets, a sympathetic ear, and a “treatment” that could get them back into the gym as quickly as possible, these young, impressionable gymnasts unknowingly allowed themselves to be manipulated. Many gymnasts have spoken in the past, but instead of helping them, USA Gymnastics made Mckayla Maroney sign a nondisclosure agreement and told Aly Raisman to stay quiet because talking about it would interfere with the supposed investigation. It is clear that USA Gymnastics is just as much to blame as Nassar himself, yet they continue to feign innocence. They have “cut ties” with the Karolyi Ranch, but they still had gymnasts training at the camp the day that they disassociated themselves. Unfortunately, Nassar did not only take advantage of the athletes on the national team but those at Michigan State University as well. So far, around 140 women have come forward as survivors of Nassar’s “treatments” with the number climbing upward as these women encourage each other to speak out.
For the longest time, gymnastics has been one of the purest sports. It had never been in the news the way so many other sports were, over drugs or cheating, until now. As a former gymnast, I am quite conflicted. I have been reading and listening to the impact statements given by the victims, and many of them have spoken about the way the sport itself played a role in the abuse. It was said by a few gymnasts that gymnastics taught them not to speak up and simply comply without arguing. However, while I agree that gymnastics, especially the USAG program, is an incredibly high-pressure sport that requires a certain type of self-discipline, I do not believe that it is gymnastics fault. It is true that you must listen to your coach and learn when to argue back or when to stay silent, but gymnastics is all an open line of communication between you and your coach. From what I’ve experienced and heard from the victims, it was their coaches and USA Gymnastics that taught them to stay silent and not to question anything. To say that the sport itself teaches one not to speak up is something with which I thoroughly disagree.
While I don’t believe the entirety of gymnastics can be blamed for playing a role in the sexual abuse that occurred at the hands of Larry Nassar, I am in complete shock and am disgusted by what has happened. I cannot believe that USA Gymnastics has perpetuated the molestation and rape of their athletes and somehow kept it out of the eye of the public for so long. From where I stand, it doesn’t seem like USA Gymnastics will be punished, even though they have committed a crime equally as despicable as Nassar’s, because they are powerful organization that is continuing to pretend that they are innocent. However, I am glad that the time has come when women are finally feeling confident enough to speak up against the men who have taken advantage of them and that these incredibly strong females are taking a stand against Nassar, Michigan State University, and USA Gymnastics.