Closing a dark chapter of USA Gymnastics


Photo courtesy of ABC NEWS.

   Four years have passed since Larry Nassar, a former doctor of the Women’s United States Gymnastics team, was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography charges. Three years have passed since Nassar was sentenced up to 175 years in prison for criminal sexual conduct. Yet, justice for the survivors of Nassar’s unspeakable actions is still a work in progress. A rather expensive stride has been taken to bring further closure to the gymnasts who were exploited by Nassar. 

   On December 13th, 2021, U.S.A. Gymnastics and the strong gymnasts preyed on by Nassar came to a settlement of $380 million. Reaching an agreement between U.S.A. Gymnastics and the survivors has been a challenge over the past five years, but the reports of abuses occurring within the organization date back six years to 2015 when complaints were made to the FBI. 

   In 2016, word broke out to the public as the first woman, Rachael Denhollander,  spoke out against Nassar’s misconduct and the abuse she endured at just 15 years old. Following Denhollander,  hundreds of other women spoke out against the former doctor whom they sought medical care from but instead were manipulated by. The abuses occurring within U.S.A. Gymnastics and the organization’s dismissal of complaints were brought to the public’s attention thanks to an investigation published by the Indianapolis Star. Public awareness and scrutiny of Nassar’s actions and U.S.A. Gymnastics’ failure to act increased through 2016 until Nassar was finally, “charged in Ingham County with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person under 13,” according to USA Today. The charges did not end there as Nassar was also held accountable for possessing child pornography and indicted on December 16th, 2016 on the federal level. 

   The legal battle that concluded December 13th, 2021 officially started on January 10th, 2021 as “eighteen victims file a federal lawsuit against Nassar, MSU, USA Gymnastics, and John Geddert’s Twistars gymnastics club, alleging sexual assault, battery, molestation, and harassment between 1996 and 2016,” according to USA Today. In short, the lawsuit stated that on multiple occasions gymnasts raised legitimate concerns and accusations of the assault they had endured but were wrongfully dismissed and or not taken seriously. On June 30th, 2017, the number of women suing Nassar, USA Gymnastics, and Michigan State University grew to 119 as 23 more girls joined the federal lawsuit. However, the progress of the lawsuits remained stagnant as a mediation phase was entered in August of 2017 and extended through December. Although Nassar was convicted and sentenced at the end of 2017, little progress was made for the settlement and thus only a glimmer of justice was shown to the survivors. 

   Another ray of justice was shown to the survivors when Michigan State University reached a $500 settlement with the survivors in May of 2018. However, the settlement between USA Gymnastics and the survivors they disregarded for all those years would take a long three and a half more years. 

   Although the settlement reached on December 13th, 2021 does serve as closure to a dark chapter of the gymnastics community, USA Gymnastics is looking to rewrite itself as an organization that prioritizes the safety of its gymnasts. The organization displays a newfound value for their gymnasts’ experiences and has provided them a platform to voice their opinions, “USA Gymnastics (USAG) and the Olympic Committee also agreed to designate some of their board seats to survivors and to implement other new policies aimed at protecting athletes from future abuse,” according to CNBC.