Larry Nassar was the USA gymnastics national team doctor who was convicted as a serial child molester in 2017.
Nassar as an Accomplished Doctor
Larry Nassar started working with gymnasts as a student athletic trainer in 1978 at a local Detroit high school. He earned his degree in kinesiology at the University of Michigan (MSU) in 1985 and went on to join the USA Gymnastics national team medical staff as an athletic trainer the following year. He additionally began working at Gedderts’ Twistars USA Gymnastics Club. Nassar received his osteopathic medical degree from Michigan State University in 1993. Three years later, he was appointed as the national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics and continued to be involved in the sports medicine field, working as a team physical for both MSU and Holt High School.
Serial Sexual Abuse: A Culture of Silence
Nassar faced abuse allegations as far back as 1994. Court records have indicated that he had sexually abused the six-year-old daughter of a family friend for five years, and student-athletes have shared concerns about Nassar to trainers or coaches at MSU in 1998 and 2000, though the university did not take any action. In 2014, three months after a recent MSU graduate had complained that Nassar sexually assaulted her during medical examinations, the university cleared Nassar’s name of any past wrongdoing.
The sexual abuse allegations became public August 4, 2016 when The Indianapolis Star published a thorough investigation on how USA Gymnastics dealt with sexual abuse complaints in the recent decades. That same year, Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast, was the first alleged victim to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse in 2000 when she was 15. The following day, MSU relieved Nassar of his clinical and patient duties.
In September of 2016, another former gymnast filed a lawsuit, alleging sexual abuse by Nassar from 1994 to 2000. Nassar was fired from MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine the next month.
On November 22, 2016, Nassar was charged with three counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct and pleaded not guilty. Officials at a press conference received approximately 50 complaints from Nassar’s alleged sexual abuse victims, though Nassar was freed on a $1 million bond. On January 10, 2017, 18 victims filed a federal lawsuit against not only Nassar but USA Gymnastics, MSU, and John Geddert’s Twistars gymnastics club. They alleged crimes including battery and molestation. The lawsuit also alleged that MSU and Geddert did not take action for past allegations. Nassar’s medical licenses were suspended later that month.
Between October and November of 2017, three members of the Fierce Five team, the famous 2012 Olympic gymnastics gold medalists, made public sexual abuse allegations against Nassar: McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas.
Nassar and Child Pornography
Nassar was additionally charged with possession of child pornography in December 2016. Investigators had also found over 37,000 images and videos on hard drives in Nassar’s home.
Nassar Pleads Guilty
On July 11, 2017, Nassar pleaded guilty to three child pornography charges. He then pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct later that year. His guilty pleas were made in accordance to an agreement that no more charges would be brought against him as of November 22.
On December 7, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges that he had admitted to. On January 24, 2018, he was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on the sexual assault charges. Over the course of seven days, 156 women came forward to make victim-impact statements. Eaton County closed the final criminal cases by sentencing Nassar to 40 to 125 years in prison on February 5.
Nassar tried to appeal his 60-year federal sentence on child pornography charges that same year but judges denied the appeal in August.
The HBO documentary “At the Heart of Gold” dives deeper into the question as to how Larry Nassar was able to commit serial sexual abuse for decades unpunished.