COMMENTARY: Hold others also responsible for molestation of athletes


Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on Wednesday, after a week in which more than 150 young victims in court recounted their horrifying experiences. But where is the death sentence for the organizations that employed and enabled this monster to sexually assault little girls for over 20 years? How is it possible that USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee and Michigan State University failed to place a nurse in the examination room while a male physician is providing medical care for teenage girls? How is it possible that three large, world-renowned organizations could fail to protect these vulnerable little children?

Nassar should have never been allowed to torture these innocent children, and part of the reason he got away with it was due to the negligence of his employers. Everyone that works with children knows that ultimately, your greatest responsibility is to protect them. Parents trust their children’s lives with teachers, coaches, doctors, clergy and other adults of influence. When you’re entrusted with a child’s well being, you must be willing to shelter them from harm, and if necessary, guard them with your life. Any responsible teacher, coach, pastor, or doctor will tell you that. They know because they accept this responsibility every day, and they take it very seriously. Unfortunately, three goliath organizations were unable to fulfill this most sacred of duties.

It’s neglect. Plain and simple. Remember, we’re not talking about 20 months of child molestation. We’re talking about 20 years. Are we to believe that no one in any of these three organizations bothered to oversee 20 years of criminal actions by Dr. Larry Nasser?

And how about complaints from Nassar’s victims dating back to 1997? These complaints were ignored, and the anger redirected at the victims. In 1997, teenage gymnast Larissa Boyce told a Michigan State University Coach that she was uncomfortable with the intravaginal treatments from Dr. Larry Nassar. But instead of protecting her, she was humiliated by her coach and told she was “unfairly misaligning a well-respected doctor.” Shouldn’t Michigan State be held accountable for allowing this so-called coach to ignore this little girl’s plea for help? Well, not according to MSU trustee Joel Ferguson, who said “Michigan State has more to worry about than just this Nassar thing” More to worry about, is that right, Mr. Ferguson? And he’s the Vice Chairman of the Board.

On Wednesday night, Lou Anna Simon, president of Michigan State University, did resign under pressure over the way she handled the scandal. But apparently, a Michigan State University employee molesting 200 little girls over 20 years doesn’t merit much attention from the MSU trustees, since Fergusson admitted that the board only spent 10 minutes discussing it during their five-hour meeting. I guess protecting children isn’t a big priority at Michigan State. It seems that protecting the schools reputation is more important than protecting children. And Ferguson has been on the board for 30 years. Does that say something about the lack of leadership oversight at MSU?

You can bet that USA Gymnastics, the USOC and Michigan State University will dodge responsibility for their roles in this tragedy. After all, they are rich, powerful organizations with corporate and political clout. Nassar is never to be heard from again, yet the entities that enabled him will walk away unscathed or with a small slap on the wrist. Meanwhile, over 200 little girls and young women will most likely be in and out of therapy for the rest of their lives.

Demons of this nature die hard, and these girls are only in the early years of a lifetime of psychological suffering that no death sentence can remedy. These teenagers and young women are celebrating today, but tomorrow they will begin a lifelong journey of replaying the assault they endured. Events of this emotional magnitude rarely go away.

If America is the great society we always claim it is, we should stand up to all three of these powerful organizations and demand that they be held accountable for failing the very children they are in business to educate, train and protect. And if we fail to do this then we need to stop bragging to the world of our moral and ethical superiority. For if we don’t care enough to punish those who fail to protect the most vulnerable among us, what kind of a country are we?

Steve Siebold is a former professional athlete, a psychological performance coach and author of “Secrets Self-Made Millionaires Teach Their Kids.”