Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, a once credible, respected physician – who treated thousands of premiere athletes – is now known as a one of the most infamous individuals in American sports history. While building his professorial career as a doctor with USA Gymnastics (USAG), Michigan State University (MSU), and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), Nassar was actually sexually assaulting hundreds of individuals under the guise of medical treatment. USAG, MSU, and the USOC all contributed to the flawed system that refused to listen to the athletes who reported Nassar in addition to help him maintain his status. Through the silence of numerous professionals among the listed institutions, Nassar’s sexual assault occurred for decades and his employment continued without consequence.
After hundreds of athletes came forward, and people finally listened, Nassar’s reign of sexual assault finally was exposed and came to an end. On December 7, 2017, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison after being convicted of federal child pornography charges. On January 24, 2018 he was sentenced to an additional 40-175 years in prison for seven counts of criminal sexual assault. Lastly, on February 5, 2018, he was sentenced to another 40-125 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of criminal sexual conduct. These harsh and deserving sentences come after decades of Nassar’s sexual assault and will be served concurrently. If Nassar surpasses a normal life expectancy and exceeds the minimum 40-year imprisonment, then his time in in-state prison will be extended to 175 years.
This paper will discuss the inquires of how and why USAG, MSU, and the USOC failed to properly investigate and take corrective action as a result of Nassar’s actions. This will include a description of the powerful individuals who worked with or oversaw Nassar, how they received complaints of his sexual assault, and an explanation of the institutional environment that fostered a culture of silence and absolute obedience. To provide a comparative analysis, this paper will analyze other athletic organizations (such as USA Swimming and USA Diving) which are also overseen by the USOC in order to compare their previous cases and reactions to sexual assault. This will be followed by recommended corrective policies for athletic organizations if claims of sexual assault arise. These policies and procedures will aim to prevent sexual assault in the future, reduce any culture of silence and vulnerability within similar organizations, and hopefully be implemented throughout athletic organizations everywhere.
If an athletic organization confronts an issue of sexual assault amongst its personnel, it is critical that there be sound policies in place to assist in navigating this challenging situation. If USAG, MSU, and/or the USOC had such policies and properly implemented them, would the lives of hundreds of athletes who were sexually assaulted been different? Would Nassar have gotten away with his crimes? After all, Nassar’s sexual assault was reported as early as 1992 and continued until he was charged in 2016. Throughout his professional career, he was consistently promoted within USAG and MSU, regardless of the athletes that periodically reported their cases of sexual assault. Numerous professionals within these major organizations received various complaints regarding Nassar’s strange behavior, but corrective action was never utilized to put an end to the assaults. These stakeholders enabled an individual to continue employment by dismissing victim’s accusations, thus demonstrating a failure within these organizations.
In order to seek prevention of sexual assault in the future and hold individuals accountable for their actions or inactions, athletic organizations (especially when working with minors) must have policies in place for how to properly handle claims of sexual assault. The policies and procedures proposed herein will hopefully be a guideline of protection for all stakeholders involved within athletic organizations and eliminate the opportunity for sexual assault. My policies should educate administration on how to properly handle these intimidating situations as well as work as a verification system to keep athletes safe.
The Larry Nassar Nightmare: Athletic Organizational Failures to Address Sexual Assault Allegations and a Call for Corrective Action,
DePaul J. Sports L. & Contemp. Probs.
Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/jslcp/vol16/iss1/6