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Local gymnastics community responds to controversy

Victim+and+former+gymnast+Aly+Raisman+speaks+at+the+sentencing+hearing+for+Larry+Nassar%2C+%28R%29+a+former+team+USA+Gymnastics+doctor+who+pleaded+guilty+in+November+2017+to+sexual+assault+charges%2C+in+Lansing%2C+Michigan%2C+U.S.%2C+January+19%2C+2018.+REUTERS%2FBrendan+McDermid
Victim and former gymnast Aly Raisman speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, (R) a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Victim and former gymnast Aly Raisman speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, (R) a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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Victim and former gymnast Aly Raisman speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, (R) a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Mikaela Larson, Sports Editor

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Former doctor for USA and Michigan State Gymnastics Larry Nassar was sentenced for 40 to 175 years in prison on Jan. 24 for sexually assaulting gymnasts under the veil of treatment. More than 250 people have come forward accusing him of abuse.

“Obviously I am very shocked and unable to completely comprehend what these elite gymnasts have gone through,” LT gymnast Micaleigh Dowling ‘19 said. “I can not imagine this happening to me and I believe that the attacked gymnasts deserve so much more to help them feel more safe.”

At his sentencing hearing, over 150 women confronted him regarding the personal abuse they suffered, including two time Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman.

“Imagine feeling like you have no power and no voice,” Raisman said the hearing. “Well, you know what Larry, I have both power and voice, and I am only beginning to just use them. All these brave women have power, and we will use our voices to make sure you get what you deserve, a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors.”

Former LT gymnastics coach and Big 10 gymnast Katherine Karubas worked with Nassar many times over her career, she said. She knew him through her time with the junior Olympic team in Canada and Colorado Springs, as well as through Big 10 programs such as Michigan State and Illinois.

“It’s a shame that a man like Dr. Nassar remained in a predatory position for decades,” Karubas said. “Too many victims got stuck in the crossfire of self-preserving administrators and non-tenured apprentices.”

Karubas is alluding to allegations against Michigan State and USA Gymnastics saying that the programs were informed of the abuse in the past but did not do anything about it.

Since the allegations have come to light, the Michigan State president, Lou Anna Simon, has resigned as well as the entire USA Gymnastics board, as demanded by the United States Olympic Committee. The NCAA has also begun an investigation regarding how Michigan State handled the Nassar case.

“What happened and what [is] allowed was beyond excusable,” Karubas said. “There will never be enough justice served to the victims or their families. USA Gymnastics needs to not only put the power of coaching and leadership in honorable, skilled, and educated hands but also empower these young athletes with knowledge, awareness and voice.”

Sexual assault scandals are common in college athletics, but none previously to this scope. Even as the Nassar case caused changes at every level in the sport and national programs, Karubas remains suspicious.

“I think this atrocity will change procedures for many athletes in many sports and for many people in many places,” she said. “Women’s gymnastics has been highlighted as of late, however, sexual assault is sadly not limited to neither one sport nor one place. Changes in its definition, changes in its awareness, changes in the power coaches, athletes, doctors, committees have and hold will be the result of this sad circumstance.”

Gymnastics, a sport dating back to ancient Greece, has recently taken flack for the scandal with the argument that it’s an over-sexualized sport.

“I can see how it can be sexualized due to the uniforms and dancing portions of routines, but gymnasts put in so much hard work to their gymnastics careers, not for their bodies,” Dowling said. “They have strong-looking bodies which is why their uniforms look ‘sexy’ when it’s just their hard work put into a leotard.”

Nassar will live out the rest of his life in prison between a 60-year sentence for child pornography and his 40-175 year sentence for first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

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