Aly Raisman and other Larry Nassar survivors say USA Gymnastics and the USOC still aren’t doing enough to protect athletes
In January, after hundreds of women came forward with stories about being sexually abused by disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, many wondered how USAG could have let it happen. After Nassar was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, the U.S. Olympic Committee even ordered all remaining members of the USAG board to resign.
But there was still the question of how future athletes would be protected from predators like Nassar, and yesterday, July 24th, reps from the USOC, USAG, and Michigan State University (where the abuse took place) attended a third Senate hearing to confront this question. In the wake of the hearing, though, many of the athletes in attendance are still looking for answers.
According to The New York Times, the hearing, entitled “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions,” sought to uncover what institutional changes have so far been made — and will be made — to protect athletes from abuse. USA Gymnastics President Kerry Perry apologized on behalf of the organization for Nassar’s actions and said that the group would now be “athlete-centric,” enabling survivors to more easily report abuse.
But Ashton Locklear, a current member of the national gymnastics team and Nassar victim who spoke publicly about her abuse for the first time yesterday, told the Times that she was skeptical about what Perry said. “Nothing has changed,” she said.
"The same culture in the sport exists," Locklear added. "Athletes are still afraid to speak out. The same mind-set exists, and I know that personally."
Sports Illustrated reported that 85 of Nassar’s victims attended the hearing on the 24th, which was the third in a much larger series of hearings. Aly Raisman, a two-time Olympian and one of Nassar’s most outspoken and prominent victims, declared in a press conference prior to the hearing that the USOC had “tried to avoid responsibility for our abuse by saying they do not train athletes.” She was referring to a recent court filing by the USOC seeking to remove itself from her lawsuit on the grounds that it does not train athletes and therefore is not responsible for the abuse she and many others suffered.
"This shows the United States Olympic Committee puts its own interests before those of athletes," Raisman said. "They claim us when it benefits their finances and their reputation, taking credit for medal performances and publishing ads with our photos and requesting donations for funding for Team USA only to distance themselves when problems arise to avoid liability."
Lori Wampler, a Nassar survivor who was on the national team from 2000 to 2001, expressed a desire for new personnel who “know what these girls are going through.”
"I think we need people who have been there, who know the culture and know what these girls are going through," Wampler told Sports Illustrated. "We need an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ mentality. We’re keeping the same people around and it’s just not people who are in the know about the culture and what these girls are going through."
The fact that the USOC and USAG did nothing to stop Nassar’s pattern of abuse is sickening. Nassar’s victims deserve answers, and no other athlete should have to endure this again.