Sentencing Larry Nassar Is Only a Start - Adults who suspect a predator is on the prowl and do nothing are simply monsters in another form.
Any doubts that monsters can be real were put to rest by the more than 150 brave women and girls who told a Michigan judge over seven days how Dr. Larry Nassar molested them in the guise of treating them. Some of the abuse, which went on for decades, started when they were as young as 6. When Dr. Nassar committed his crimes, he was working as a doctor for the United States Olympic gymnastics team, for Michigan State University, for U.S.A. Gymnastics — the sport’s governing body — and elsewhere.
As agonizingly recounted during a sentencing hearing, several girls over the years turned to one authority or another for help, and received none. Adults who suspect a predator is on the prowl and do nothing are simply monsters in another form.
Dr. Nassar pleaded guilty to sexually molesting seven young athletes. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina guaranteed on Wednesday that he would never again be free, after sentencing him to 40 to 175 years in prison.
But he is not the only one who deserves to be called to account. An investigation commissioned by U.S.A. Gymnastics and released last year found that its board repeatedly turned a blind eye to Dr. Nassar’s abuses. An investigative series by The Indianapolis Star found that the organization had covered up accusations of abuses by many coaches, not just Dr. Nassar. Three key board members, including the chairman, Paul Parilla, resigned on Monday.
That’s a start, but it’s not enough. The United States Olympic Committee said it is considering decertifying U.S.A. Gymnastics, but the Olympic committee was also slow to act in the Nassar case. What changes will it implement to ensure that such widespread harm to American athletes doesn’t happen under its watch again?
The resignation on Wednesday of Lou Anna Simon, the president of Michigan State, where Dr. Nassar’s medical practice was based, was overdue. Though Michigan State has denied covering up Dr. Nassar’s crimes, reporting by The Detroit News found that 14 university officials were told of Dr. 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 Dr. Nassar to see patients for 16 months while he was under criminal investigation after a 2014 allegation of sexual assault by a patient.
The athletic trainers, assistant coaches, university police officers and other school officials who let Dr. Nassar’s abuse go on should also step down. The N.C.A.A., which is investigating the matter, should consider sanctions against Michigan State, including banning it from postseason play for some period, as it did Penn State’s football program after the former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of molesting children over a period of 15 years.
In all these instances, including cases detailed by Harper’s Magazine in an article on competitive swimming, athletic glory, or the glow reflected onto those surrounding and enriching themselves from young athletes, blinded adults to their real responsibilities.
Protecting the image of the Olympic team, a gymnastics program and a university seems to have meant more to these adults than protecting children. In the end they protected nothing and no one and ruined their own reputations as well.
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