When A Gold Medal Dream Becomes A Nightmare
Larry Nassar, the pedophile who was allowed to abuse young girls for decades under the guise of being an esteemed gymnastics doctor and trainer for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, is finally being sentenced this week in Lansing, MI. Almost 200 victims are sharing their personal stories about how Nassar groomed them, sexually abused them and effectively ruined their lives. (It’s live on TMZ.com, and it is gutwrenching to watch.) I hope the judge throws the book at him. Literally. I hope she takes the Bible or whatever thick book she has at her disposal and chucks it at his goofy-looking head, cracks his glasses and draws blood.
Then I hope she jails him for 300 years.
The anger I feel toward this man is so thick and bitter that I can taste it on my tongue. And he never laid a single hand on my daughter. As a parent, I want him to answer for his actions. I want him to pay a price. Because he took something so precious from those girls that they can never get back. He took something that we parents try so desperately to protect.
He took their innocence.
Of course, Nassar wasn’t alone in this. He had many enablers. MANY. He had people around him who looked the other way, despite the various allegations that were being levied against him. These people are just as responsible. They were the adults. They were supposed to protect the innocent. Instead, Michigan State’s attorney filed a motion to remove the university’s name, as well as coaches and administrators who had direct knowledge of the accusations against Nassar, and dismiss the charges against them. As for USA Gymnastics, many of the same people on the board of directors when Nassar was allowed to keep working under their brand are still there. There’s a new president. That’s it.
Where’s the accountability? Responsibility? Human decency?
I often wonder how people like this sleep at night. Because I toss and turn after sending an e-mail that I regret. How does one sleep soundly knowing that they are effectively supporting a pedophile, that he’s ruining hundreds of lives, and they did nothing to stop it?
This story, in all its horror, hasn’t really blown up in the world of sports the way others have, but LaVar Ball stories flood my Twitter feed constantly. It’s easy to read and talk about Ball, to take swipes and deliver hot takes about his antics. I suppose it’s not easy to read and talk about decades of sexual abuse and molestation in gymnastics. It makes people uncomfortable. It reminds them that sports aren’t always the safe haven they seek.
To that I say, buck up. Or maybe this is more sobering—what if it were your daughter? Would it matter then?
My five-year-old daughter has dreams, too. She also loves gymnastics. I don’t know, at this age, if it’s something she’ll want to put her all into. I know that she’s tried soccer and says it’s boring. I know that she has no desire to play baseball and cheerleading isn’t her thing. But she’s into all of the balancing, twisting, swinging, jumping and bending that goes along with gymnastics. Before this story broke, I never had a second thought about it. Now, I think about it. I think about Aly Raisman, about when she was five years old and falling in love with gymnastics, and the innocence and purity of her gold medal aspirations. And how all of that was taken away from her without a second thought.
Yesterday, Simone Biles Tweeted that she too was abused and molested by Nassar. It broke my heart. These young women had a dream of competing in the Olympics and winning a gold medal. A dream that came true. A dream that will forever be tainted, by the very people that were supposed to protect them. A dream that, in the end, became a nightmare.