USA Gymnastics : Olympic doctor Larry Nassar pleads guilty

Former USA Gymnastics sports doctor, Larry Nassar, has pleaded guilty to seven charges of sexual assault against women and girls in his care. The hearing comes after a third US Olympian, Gabby Douglas accused him of sexual abuse. As part of the plea deal, Nassar, 54, could face at least 25 years in prison. His trial has started a week ago.

Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor for about two decades, pleaded guilty in November. He admitted that he used his position as a trusted medical professional to sexually abuse young girls.

USA Gymnastics fired Nassar in 2015 « after learning of athlete concerns« .

Sex abuse allegations

In September 2016, The Indianapolis Star revealed that two former gymnasts had made allegations of sexual abuse against Nassar. Since then, over 150 people hav accused him of sexually assaulting them.

According to these allegations, Nassar committed sexual assault during medical examinations. He initially denied the charges claiming he was performing legitimate medical procedures.

The case is on the rise since October 2017 : Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, using the #MeToo hashtag on Twitter, alleged that Nassar repeatedly molested her, starting when she was 13 and until she retired from the sport in 2016. Then, during an interview, on November 12, 2017, Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman also accused Nassar of sexually abusing her. « I didn’t know it was abuse » she explained, « because I was so young and because he was a doctor« . She published her first book Fierce, and bravely decided to tell every part of her life, not only her brilliant successes but also the worst moments.

Last week, she confronts Nassar in court and said : « You know what Larry, I have both power and voice, and I’m only beginning to just use them« .

I personally admire the USA Olympic team and supported them in 2012 and 2016. I am convinced that these girls are models for a generation. They are strong and powerful, and they work so hard to make their dream come true that to me, nobody has the right to  destroy it. In January, Olympic champions like Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, Simone Biles and Maggie Nichols came forward with allegation that them too have been sexually abused.

However, the majority of Nassar’s victims were not famous competitors. They were students and young female athletes -gymnasts, dancers or volleyball players. Nassar’s reputation as a well-connected, talented doctor won their trust. It also helped secure their silence.

where-are-they-now-the-fierce-five-us-womens-gymnastics-team-that-won-gold-at-the-2012-london-olympics.jpg.png
The Fierce Five in 2012 : McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber

 

USA Gymnastics scandal 

« For far too long I’ve asked myself ‘Was I too naive?’ ‘Was it my fault?’ I know 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, USAG and others » said Simone Biles, one of the most decorated gymnast of al time.

Attorney John Manly, who represents more than a 100 victims in civil lawsuits, has argued that Nassar was supported by institutions like USA Gymnastics. Facing accusations os a cover-up, USA Gymnastics said in a statement that it acted appropriately and informed law enforcement when it learnt about the abuse un 2015. « We are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastic career. USAG is focused every day on creating a culture of empowerment that encourages our athletes to speak up about abuse and other difficult topics » the statement said.

Steeve Penny, the CEO of USA Gymnastics for more than 10 years resigned in March 2017 as the scandal unfolded. The organisation also hired a former federal prosecutor, Deborah Daniels, last November to conduct an independent review on how it handles sexual assault allegations. USA Gymnastics lost several major corporate sponsors, including Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, Under Armour and the Hershey Company.

The NAssar case is very shocking and not only in the USA. The number of victims is huge : more than 150 have come forward, which represents « nearly as many victims as the Jerry Sandusky, Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein combined » said a journalist for the HuffPost.

Yesterday night, former US Olympic gym doctor, Larry Nassar, has been given 175 years in jail for sexual abuse.

 

Chloé LOURENÇO

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