The most enduring image from the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta was gymnast Kerri Strug’s courageous second vault and perfect landing on a badly sprained ankle that sealed the all-around gold medal for Team USA.
As she was carried off the floor, she was turned over to the tender mercies of team doctor Larry Nassar, helping cement his fame as a healer.
Nassar, 54, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison on multiple counts of sexual assault involving young women he treated.
During seven days of victim-impact hearings in a Lansing, Mich., courtroom, 156 women testified that Nassar had abused them under the guise of providing medical care either as a team doctor for USA Gymnastics or at Michigan State University, where he was a faculty member. He also faces a 60-year federal sentence on child pornography charges.
As inspiring as it was to see so many young women bravely tell their stories, it is deeply troubling that, once again, institutions charged with protecting young people failed them instead. As with the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal at Penn State University, institutions looked the other way when confronted with the awful truth. Too much money was at stake. Reputations had to be protected at all costs.
Four executives and board members of USA Gymnastics, the sport’s Indianapolis-based governing body, already have resigned. So did Michigan State’s president, Lou Anna K. Simon. She denied any cover-up but said, as president, she bears ultimate responsibility. Investigations are under way at both the university and USA Gymnastics.