Sexual Predator Sentenced to Nearly 200 Years in Prison


Pietro Topa

Samantha Gong ’18, a captain of the Girls’ Varsity Gymnastics Team, weighs in on the Larry Nassar case.

Michigan State University and Karolyi Ranch were once highly regarded institutes in the gymnastics world. However, these were also the establishments that used to employ a former sports doctor, Larry Nassar, who sexually abused over 265 women and one man over a period of two decades, with ages of the victims ranging from as young as a 6-year-old to teenagers.

Gymnast Rachael Denhollander was the first to speak up about her experience with Nassar, explaining she was assaulted sixteen years ago at the mere age of 15. Over 150 young adults followed, coming forward to speak about what Nassar had done to them and how they feel.

Samantha Gong ’18, one of the captains of the Girls’ Varsity Gymnastics Team, stated, “He will be behind bars for the rest of his life, knowing that his victims have come together to stand up to him. And although what happened should never have been even a thought, these gymnasts are stronger now for showing their dedication to each other.”

Nassar was charged for up to 175 years in prison for his actions, with Judge Rosemarie Aquilina telling Nassar, “I just signed your death warrant.” During the trial, many women came together to tell their stories, leaving statements that resonated throughout the audience, jury, and general population. Since the accusations against Nassar were initially brushed off, the victims finally felt they were able to see some sort of justice.

“In regards to the outcome, I think that it was fair.”

Yasmin Andrews ’18 said, “In regards to the outcome, I think that it was fair. Gymnastics is already a mentally challenging sport, and years of abuse and manipulation on top of that is highly damaging to the athletes.”

Nassar’s case shed light on the way U.S.A. Gymnastics (USAG) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) protected Nassar by ignoring accusations against him. This revelation cost USAG several sponsors and its training center at the Karolyi Ranch.

Many members of the USAG administration stepped down, including Steve Penny, the President and CEO. After the Pyeongchang Olympics ended, Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the USOC also stepped down, although he cited medical concerns as his reason for doing so. Despite the change in administrations, the implementation of real change about in the world of gymnastics is still unsure.

“I think USA Gymnastics should have been more concerned about the gymnasts rather than the reputation of their company,” Gong added. “Instead of trying to validate themselves by producing higher scoring gymnasts, their main concern should have been the safety and well-being of the girls. USAG should never have let any doctor work unsupervised, and their priority should have been to protect the gymnasts.”

Despite the atrocities they have faced, the athletes decided to show solidarity with the hashtags #WeStandTogether and #MeToo.

“I hope that the gymnasts are able to use their tragedy to grow. As a girl myself, I can’t even imagine what they went through, but how they are able to use the event to stand together really inspires me,” said Mithila Dey ’21.

For the past few months, women have been standing up for justice and equality. The Larry Nassar hearing showed that the sports world is not exempt from this movement. The reaction that this scandal has incited has made it evident that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated.