The lights, the glory… Olympic stars dances in these young girls’ eyes. It was especially dazzling and awe-inspiring when a doctor named Larry Nassar brought them souvenirs from the Olympic Games – pins or T-shirts. They loved all of it… the glitz and glamour were intoxicating. Larry was the nice guy to tough coach, John Geddert. The girls could complain to Larry about how hard John was on them. Injuries were not allowed. Gymnasts were ridiculed daily and worked beyond the point of exhaustion and light-headedness. Geddert brought athletes to the Olympics, but at what price?
One girl stated that John let her fall when he was supposed to be spotting her as punishment for not performing a move correctly. Another claimed that he threw a springboard at her in anger. It was well known in the gym that injuries infuriated the well-known coach. It was better to pretend that mistakes did not happen than to be treated like trash. Young athletes practiced through broken bones and dislocated ribs. Sometimes, blood flowed freely while John screamed at them. Parents were not allowed in the gym, but they could observe practice through a sound-proof window. Few objected to what they saw and it was impossible to witness all of the mistreatment. For example, parents were not allowed at the infamous Karolyi Ranch, which has since closed.
Olympic doctor Larry Nassar groomed his young victims with sweet words and gifts. He was distinctly fixated on a particular part of anatomy. In fact, the girls knew him around the Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in Lansing, MI as the “crotch doc.” He would touch the gymnasts’ private parts while claiming to treat back and spine pain. Oftentimes, parents were in the room during these “medical examinations,” but the doctor obscured their view by wrapping a towel around the girls’ waists. Some girls complained to their parents and gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages, to no avail. They were told that they were misinterpreting the “medical treatment.” Nassar’s reign of terror lasted from the 1990s until he was indicted in 2016. Fear of him ran through Twistars, where he volunteered, and Holt High School and Michigan State University, where he worked. He also abused many more athletes, such as dancers and volleyball players. They were in awe of his Olympic status, and he blithely took advantage of them and took from them what they were not willing to give. The repercussions of such pain, abuse and violations will run rivers through some of the victims’ relationships with loved ones, co-workers and the public for life.
An investigation into Larry Nassar’s harmful actions commenced around 2014 as a result of women becoming older and more vocal about the maltreatment that they suffered at the hands of the doctor. In 2017, Nassar, who had been stripped of his medical license, pled guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual misconduct. Kathie Klages was convicted of lying to police. At the sentencing hearing of Nassar in 2018, 200 young women spent seven full days in court giving moving victim impact statements at a length of their own choosing. Michigan State University paid $500 million to Nassar’s victims, while USA Gymnastics, which has filed for bankruptcy, has offered $215 million to victims of Nassar. No more will Larry Nassar be allowed to terrorize young women by gratifying his sexual proclivities. These girls and women are stronger than him and Nassar will spend 40 to 125 years in prison for his horrific crimes.
I was aware of the gargantuan sacrifice that Olympic hopefuls make in terms of giving up social lives outside of the gym, family vacations and the pain of injuries. The physical, psychological and sexual abuse that these gymnasts suffered is terrible. The fact that the abuse was allowed to continue for so many years is nothing but deplorable. I wish these women peace and happiness in their lives.