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It was one of the most shocking, horrific scandals in U.S. history: a USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, was accused of sexually abusing hundreds of young gymnasts for years who turned to him for help — all while USA Gymnastics allegedly turned a blind eye. In Netflix's new documentary "Athlete A," a number of gymnasts speak about the abuse endured at the hands of Nassar, and what it took to take down the predatory figure.
One of these women is Jamie Dantzscher — one of the first to go on the record with the reporting team that broke open the floodgates on the depths of Nassar's abuse and the apparent lengths USA Gymnastics leaders went to allegedly cover it up.
Dantzscher is an incredibly accomplished athlete in her own right: She won a bronze medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and is a member of the University of California, Los Angeles' Athletic Hall of Fame. Yet she was one of the many young athletes victimized by Nassar — who all believed he had their best interests at heart.
"He was, like, my buddy. He was on my side. ... He would put his fingers inside of me and move my leg around. He would tell me I was going to feel a pop. And that would put my hips back and help my back pain," Dantzscher told CBS in 2017.
As "Athlete A" shows, Dantzscher reached out to the Indianapolis Star after the newspaper published a bombshell report on USA Gymnastics leadership's alleged failures to curtail sexual abuse of young athletes. USA Gymnastics is the sport's national governing body.
"If he is a pedophile and I don't do something about about it, I can't live with that," Dantzscher told the documentary about first speaking out on her experience with Nassar.
Lawyer John Manly represented her as the Indianapolis Star received a number of allegations from women about Nassar's abuse in the lead up to publishing the story that broke the scandal open, as shown in the documentary.
Dantzscher said it took years for her to realize that Nassar's "treatments" were actually sexual assault because of the toxic nature of USA Gymnastics staff and how leaders made her feel like Nassar was the only person who was nice to her.
"I actually looked forward to treatment because Larry was the only nice adult I could remember ... being a part of USA Gymnastics staff," Dantzscher told the documentary.
"What I have only recently come to understand is that the medical treatment he performed for my back pain and other injuries was sexual assault. Dr. Nassar abused me at the USA National Training Center in Texas, he abused me in California and at meets all over the world. Worst, he abused me in my hotel room in Sydney at the Olympic Games," she told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017.
After days of numerous survivors speaking out about the abuses they endured at Nassar's hands, he was sentenced to 175 years in prison.
"You used your position of power to manipulate and abuse ... you knew I was powerless," Dantzscher told Nassar during a 2018 sentencing hearing. "Your days of manipulation are over."
Like many of the athletes who spoke up about their abuse — such as Maggie Nichols — Dantzscher has also harshly criticized USA Gymnastics, claiming their failures allowed Nassar to exploit young girls.
"USA Gymnastics failed its most basic responsibility to protect the athletes under its care. They failed to take action against coaches, trainers, and other adults who abused children. And they allowed Dr. Nassar to abuse young women and girls for more than 20 years," she told the Senate.
In the years since Nassar's sentencing, former USA Gymnastics CEO and President Steve Penny has been accused of helping cover up the sexual abuse of athletes and has been charged. Penny has pleaded not guilty and his case is still pending.
USA Gymnastics filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018, according to ESPN.
That same year, Dantzscher wrote a new forward for a revised edition of the book "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes," according to ESPN. The book casts a critical eye on the culture of elite Olympic sports, which critics like former champion gymnast Jennifer Sey say prioritizes money and medals over the well-being and safety of the young athletes — often crossing into outright abuse.
"Only in an environment in which abuse of all kinds is normalized could sexual abuse on this scale happen," Dantzscher wrote in the forward. "It required the gymnasts' well-practiced silence and the adults' dereliction of responsibility. It required a culture that prized Olympic medals over the well-being of the young athletes striving to win them."
Where Is Jamie Dantzscher Now?
Dantzscher has been relatively inactive on social media since Nassar was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty. However, following the release of "Athlete A" she has made a few posts on her Instagram and launched a YouTube channel.
"I've always been passionate about helping others so hopefully I can inspire and motivate you, no matter what you have been through," Dantzscher said in an introductory video on her YouTube, which appears to be focused on promoting motivational speaking. She also explained she would be launching a podcast in the near future.
Dantzscher did not respond to a request for comment.
"Athlete A" is now available to stream on Netflix.
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