Larry Nassar’s trial shows need for change

By Meredith Aldis | Broadcast Reporter

How, for 30 years, could one of the most popular sports programs in America have a pedophile preying on its athletes?

This is a question many people are wondering, and they want answers. It is time for change in the world of gymnastics.

The first step toward change is to hold these enablers of abuse accountable. While Dr. Larry Nassar was the one on trial for what happened, I believe Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the Karolyis should be held just as accountable. Adults who suspect a predator is on the prowl and do nothing are simply monsters in another form.

The sexual assault of athletes all could have ended at Michigan State, but unfortunately, it didn’t. The Detroit News found that 14 university officials were told of Nassar’s sexual misconduct in the two decades before he was arrested and that at least eight women had reported his actions. Michigan State continued to allow Nassar to see patients for 16 months while he was under criminal investigation after a 2014 allegation of sexual assault by a patient. Just one allegation should have been enough.

USA Gymnastics failed its gymnasts. USA Gymnastics ignored clues, minimized accusations and hushed accusers. McKayla Maroney, a member of the 2012 Olympic team, signed a confidentiality agreement with USA Gymnastics in December 2016, as part of a $1.25 million settlement that required her to keep quiet her allegations against Nassar. USA Gymnastics turned a blind eye to women when they were just little girls trying to reach the pinnacle of their sport. The way I see it, USA Gymnastics is guilty of giving a safe harbor to a known criminal and allowing Nassar to prey on the athletes without fear or punishment.

I have never been to the now infamous “Karolyi Ranch,” owned by Bela and Marta Karolyi near Houston but I was a gymnast for 10 years, and some of my teammates did go the Ranch. I believe Olympic gymnasts’ claims that the training facility was a house of horrors that enabled and helped breed a demon like Nassar to prey on the vulnerable and trusting. They also told investigators Marta Karolyi, the U.S. national team coordinator for USA Gymnastics, psychologically and physically tormented gymnasts. She was known to starve the girls and restrict their water intake. She insulted, belittled and degraded her athletes on a regular basis. When an athlete was no longer seen as valuable to Marta to win medals, she had no use for them, and they were simply ignored. The culture of abuse was accepted and even repeated because the United States Gymnastics Olympic team won medals.

Many athletes tell stories of being brainwashed at the Ranch and by Nassar’s “treatments.” Nassar was not a doctor. His title notarized him as a professional who had pledged to heal, but instead gave him a disguise, a complicity network and access to victims. He was calculated, deliberate and a master manipulator. Nassar was a figure of authority and expertise who was supposed to be helping athletes, so parents handed over their little girls, entrusting them to him. Little did they know, he was someone who would haunt their daughters for a very long time. Nassar is no longer a doctor, and as the women proposed, he never really was since his “treatments” weren’t medical at all.

Protecting the image of a university, an Olympic team and a gymnastics program seems to have meant more to these adults than protecting athletes. What is the result of putting a reputation ahead of serious accusations? The horrid stories from 156 women who spoke in open court, which all could have been avoided.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked the Texas Rangers Tuesday to investigate allegations of abuse at the Karolyi Ranch near Huntsville, north of Houston, which is a step in the right direction, but overall, change must be demanded.