Understanding the Larry Nassar Scandal: Lessons on Accountability and Protecting Victims

Larry Nassar

The Larry Nassar scandal sent shockwaves throughout the sports world and beyond. Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics and a faculty member at Michigan State University, was convicted in 2018 for sexually abusing hundreds of young gymnasts under the pretense of medical treatment. This case not only highlighted the magnitude of the abuse but also exposed a system that failed to protect these vulnerable athletes.

Nassar’s abuse spanned decades, with his victims ranging from elite-level athletes to young girls seeking treatment for injuries. Many athletes trusted Nassar because of his prestigious position as a team doctor. However, instead of providing genuine medical care, he took advantage of their vulnerability and systematically abused them.

The failure to stop Nassar’s abuse extends beyond his individual actions. It revealed a deeply flawed system that allowed him to continue his heinous acts for so long. Several individuals and institutions failed to take action despite numerous reports and complaints against him, enabling him to victimize countless athletes.

Systemic failure

One of the key issues in this scandal was the failure of institutions like USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University to address the allegations against Nassar promptly and effectively. There were numerous red flags and complaints about Nassar’s misconduct over the years, but they were swept under the rug or dismissed as isolated incidents. The culture of silence and prioritizing reputation over the safety and well-being of the athletes perpetuated the abuse.

The Nassar case also sheds light on the power dynamics within sports organizations. Athletes, especially young ones, often find themselves in vulnerable positions, relying on the authority figures within their sport for guidance and support. Nassar abused this power dynamic and manipulated his victims under the guise of medical treatment. This highlights the need for proper safeguards and support structures within sports organizations to protect athletes from predators.


One crucial aspect that emerged from the Nassar scandal is the importance of accountability. Numerous individuals, including coaches and administrators, were aware of the allegations against Nassar but failed to take appropriate action. As a result, they now face public scrutiny and legal consequences for their inaction. It is crucial to hold these individuals accountable for their role in enabling the abuse. This serves as a reminder that staying silent and protecting individuals associated with the institution can have severe consequences.

Additionally, the Nassar case emphasizes the need to believe and support victims who come forward with allegations of abuse. Many of Nassar’s victims were discredited or ignored when they initially spoke up, prolonging the abuse and perpetuating a culture of disbelief. It is crucial to create an environment where victims feel safe and heard when reporting abuse, ensuring that proper investigations are conducted to protect their rights and well-being.

The Larry Nassar scandal sparked conversations about the overall safety and welfare of athletes across various sports. It prompted reforms within USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and other sports organizations to prioritize athlete protection and prevent future abuse. These reforms include stricter policies, training programs, and mandatory reporting mechanisms to ensure timely intervention in case of allegations or suspicions of abuse.

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