Gymnastics is more complicated than any other sport. It is not an easy sport like kicking a ball around or playing catch. It is truly one of a kind. With the injuries, long practices, no social life and level of difficulty, imagine having to overcome sexual abuse by someone you were told by many, to trust. Is USAG (USA Gymnastics) morally responsible for keeping this monster around? Sexual abuse has become a larger problem over the past few decades and it needs to be stopped. The strong athletes in this sport are not stopping until this is over Larry Nassar, former Michigan State University doctor sexually assaulted more than 150 female athletes including USA elite gymnasts and athletes at the University. Nassar’s specialty was pelvic medical procedures. In Jan. 2018, 156 women stood in front of Larry in court to testify. They publicly accused him of sexual assault which lead him to a sentence of 40 to 175 years in prison. These gymnasts delivered sorrowful stories with pain and anger in their voices to let the country know how gruesome Larry Nassar truly is.
This five-month investigation has taken a negative toll on the sport as a whole. In a previous interview with a friend, Collea, Maryland Terp gymnast, mention, “Even though people express that athletes should go through a class teaching rights from wrongs, I don’t think they should because the issue isn’t within the athletes. The issue is sick men molesting the innocent athletes. Though I do believe every athlete should be aware of right and wrong at a young age regardless.” If it’s happening to gymnasts, how do we know it’s not happening in another sport? These matters need to be taken more seriously.
In an interview I conducted with my old high school athletic trainer, who is now on the Athletic Training Advising board of Virginia, Sara Whiteside, she provided me with helpful and positive insight on this case. “New laws have been passed after the sexual abuse case to stop this from happening. The concern is that it was only passed for Olympic sports. What about college and high schools? These things can’t be limited to only Olympic athletes, this needs to be more broadly talked about. Unfortunately, it’s not and that is the world we live in.” This will happen again if we do not plan to stick to our words in trying to change or prevent this from reoccurring. “Doctors, coaches, and parents need to make sure there is a mutual party to witness during evaluations. Financially this will strain gyms for doubling up on patients. Now, do you limit that second person for back, hip, pelvic, growing injuries? Or do you take it a step further to have the second party for everyone in treatments?” Mrs. Whiteside mentioned that is one way to inhibit future situations. It’s not the athlete’s problem, it is the doctors who take young children for granted by mentally and physically using them to their pleasure. In gymnastics, if you want to compete in the Olympics, you train in Texas in your single digit ages. There you are surrounded by coaches, gymnasts and therapists to help you achieve your goal. Mrs. Whiteside expressed, “If parents are willing to send their kids at a young age and be able to trust the adults involved, they have to have a lot of communication with not only the gymnasts but the coaches and professionals as well.” Precautions need to be taken seriously in and out of the gym for not only the younger athletes but the college athletes as well. Beyond the scandal, gymnastics teaches young athletes discipline and confidence. Larry Nassar ruined young women’s trust to professionals and adults along with self-esteem and confidence by taking away their innocence while pleasuring himself. These claims need to be taken more vigorously from here on out. It will also help implement better policy on the authority side by promoting change and stopping incidents like this from occurring again.”Sexual assault is not taking place with strangers, it is happening with people we know and trust.” Mrs. Whiteside added at the end of the interview. The strong women involved are determined to not let Larry Nassar stain the sport of Gymnastics.