Inside The Twisted World Of USA Gymnastics

For the better part of January, the nation was captivated by the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, the former doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University who was found guilty of multiple counts of sexual abuse and sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. At the hearing, 156 current and former gymnasts read deeply personal, graphic impact statements about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of the disgraced doctor.
On the surface, this is a story of one terrible man who found a devious way to take advantage of vulnerable girls. But what Nassar laid bare was that the rot extends beyond one predator or even one sport — it’s the product of a broken system, one that unwittingly grooms young girls to stay silent and bow to the will of their superiors.
“This is bigger than Larry Nassar,” said two-time gold medalist Aly Raisman, one of Nassar’s many victims, in an interview on the Today Show last week. “We have to get to the bottom of how this disaster happened. If we don’t figure out how it did, we can’t be confident that it won’t happen again.”
As sinister as it is to consider, in retrospect, “[Nassar] picked the perfect system to be a predator in,” says Robert Andrews, MA, LMFT, a sports performance coach who has worked with Olympic gymnasts. Refinery29 spoke to sports psychologists and former gymnasts about the self-policed system that enabled an abuser and failed the athletes that trusted it. When you consider the perfectionist culture and insular politics of the sport, it’s horrifyingly obvious how a sexual abuse scandal of this scale happened right underneath our noses.

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