USA Gymnastics: A Look at the Dark Past of Dr. Larry Nassar

Michael Geiger

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The magic of the Olympics lies in their infrequency. In every games, the drama of every moment is intensified exponentially. When a skater falls on her triple axel, or a sprinter jumps a split-second before the gun, the emotional punch hits the viewer like a ten-pound bus. One can only imagine the pressure-cooking concoction of anxiety, fear, and excitement brewing inside of each athlete. 

For the viewer, the Olympics is a chance to exercise some patriotic pride by watching the USA kick everyone’s ass in everything from basketball to rhythmic diving. For the athletes, it’s a chance to fulfill lifelong dreams and culminate a career spent preparing for a moment of greatness. For Larry Nassar, the Olympics were something much different. 

In 1986, Larry Nassar joined the athletic training staff of USA Gymnastics. It is then that the wheels were put in motion on one of the most stunning examples of institutional neglect and moral decay in sports history. In 1992, Nassar committed his first string of alleged sexual assaults on a twelve-year old gymnast. Two years later, according to Olympic medalist Jamie Dantzscher, Nassar began a six-year period where he repeatedly abused her under the guise of treating lower back pain.

In 1996, Nassar was named the national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics. A year later, after the Olympics in Atlanta had concluded, he took jobs as gymnastics team physician and assistant professor at Michigan State University. In 1998, Nassar allegedly began a sexually abusive relationship with the six-year old daughter of a friends that lasted several years. A year later, an MSU cross-country runner allegedly told members of the athletic training staff that Nassar had sexually assaulted her. They dismissed her accusations, telling her Nassar, “knew what he was doing.”

In 2000, Nassar allegedly assaulted MSU softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez. After reporting him to the athletic training staff, she was told that, “she was fortunate to receive the best medical care possible from a world-renowned doctor.” That same year, Nassar allegedly assaulted fifteen-year-old USA Gymnastics member Rachael Denhollander while giving her treatment for back pain. He later attended the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney as the US Women’s gymnastics team physician.

In 2004, Nassar began amassing a collection of child pornography. After attending the 2008 Olympic Games as a US team physician, the trail goes cold until 2014. It was then that Michigan State graduate Amanda Thomashow reported to Dr. Jeff Kovan of the MSU Sports Medicine Clinic that she was sexually assaulted by Nassar during a hip examination. Michigan State University president Lou Anna K. Simon is made aware of a Title IX complaint, and that a police report was filed against an unnamed physician. 

However, the university did not pass any information to prosecutors for sixteen months, which eventually led to a prosecutor telling police Nassar would not be charged. But after several Nassar victims told their stories to the Indianapolis Star on September 12th, 2016, it was only eight days before the doctor was fired from Michigan State University. 

During his sentence hearing from January 16th-24th, five weeks after being sentenced to sixty years in prison on child pornography charges, Nassar heard one hundred and fifty-six women read Victim Impact Statements describing the torment and abuse they received at his hands. No matter their status, famous Olympian or unknown civilian, every single woman got their chance to take one little step out of the dark corner they were all put in by one evil man. 

Larry Nassar was sentenced on January 24th to 40-175 years in prison on seven counts of criminal sexual assault. Capital punishment is not allowed in the state of Michigan, but it’s a damn shame that an exception can’t be made. Larry Nassar booked himself an express ticket to hell, and while his stay in prison will likely (hopefully) be riddled with inmates exercising vigilante justice, the man deserves an expedited journey to the place where he will rot for eternity.