Saturday Sports: Fallout Continues Over Gymnastics Sex Abuse
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The entire USA Gymnastics board will resign. That's just one of a string of resignations since the trial of the team doctor Larry Nassar. And this week, of course, he was sentenced up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing gymnasts who were under his care. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us.
Tom, thanks for being with us.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.
SIMON: This has set off a chain reaction of resignations and examinations that seem pretty late in coming, don't they?
GOLDMAN: That's always the way, isn't it? The examinations come late. And of course, they might've been avoided if people in positions of power were honest and exhibited common sense and courage along the way. But yeah, the resignations are coming fast all in the past few days. As you mentioned, the USA Gymnastics board will resign on the orders of U.S. Olympic Committee head Scott Blackmun, who wrote a letter saying, you do it by next Wednesday or I will decertify USA Gymnastics as a national governing body of the sport.
Michigan State hit hard. Larry Nassar worked there for 20 years and is accused of committing sexual abuse crimes there. This week, the university president, Lou Anna Simon, resigned. The athletic director announced he's retiring, although this isn't a gold-watch retirement, certainly.
SIMON: Yeah. Among so much else that just pierced my heart of the women who spoke in court, Aly Raisman said, quote, "I have represented the United States of America in two Olympics and have done so successfully. And both USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee have been very quick to capitalize and celebrate my success. But did they reach out when I came forward? No."
GOLDMAN: Yeah. That's a pretty searing, you know, part of the searing testimony that was given in a courtroom. And this raises a really important question about these organizations - whether they did enough. There's a lot of criticism that they didn't, and there's a lot of ammunition for that criticism. The Indianapolis Star, which broke this thing wide open in August of 2016, reported for many years USA Gymnastics didn't tell law enforcement or other authorities about sexual abuse allegations against gymnastics coaches.
You mentioned what Aly Raisman said about the USOC. The USOC is the overseer of Olympic sports. And where was it? Why didn't the committee intervene or take the kind of strong action we saw this week with Scott Blackmun's demand that USA Gymnastics board resign? And then, regarding Michigan State, ESPN's "Outside The Lines" reports that as far back as 1997, athletes began telling multiple Michigan State officials that Larry Nassar was sexually assaulting them under the guise of medical treatment. Nassar kept his job there until September 2016. All these organizations, Scott, say they didn't know what was happening over the years with Nassar. There are multiple investigations planned. And we hope to know the truth when they're done.
SIMON: Are there changes necessary at the individual gymnastics club level, as well?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, I think so. And you hope changes happen all the way up and down the scale with organizations - you know, and all the way down to, you know, the most important part - parents, athletes, coaches. You know, everyone should report allegations and should feel safe doing so. Athletes and parents should be vigilant and vet, as best they can, coaches and doctors and other team officials. And organizations need to put in positions of power - excuse me - people who will make smart, ethical decisions and understand that exposing wrongdoing quickly and openly will never hurt your company or your product as much as covering it up will.
SIMON: You know, we do have 25 seconds left. The Winter Olympics are about to open in South Korea. This, once again, damages the integrity and appearance of the Olympic movement, doesn't it?
GOLDMAN: Oh, I think it will. And I'm sure the U.S. Olympic Committee is bracing for the onslaught of questions, especially this week leading up - the week leading up to the games, when you have thousands of journalists looking for stories. This has become a global event, and they will be asked about it.
SIMON: Tom Goldman, thanks so much.
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