The recent shocking claims by many former United States gymnastics team Olympians against former trainer Dr. Larry Nassar appears it may be just the tip of the iceberg involving what has been happening over the course of the past decade in collegiate gymnastics. The U.S. Olympic Committee has requested an independent third-party to investigate the claims and determine “why this could have gone on for so long” within a sport that utilizes the acrobatic skills of very young and small-frame female athletes. The number of testimonies and the similarity of the accounts have driven much anger among officials and enthusiasts alike, and now New York Sen. Kirsten Gilliland has requested an official U.S. Department of Justice investigation.
The conviction of Nasser has also triggered the resignation of Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon, which is where Dr. Nasser was employed for many years. If the former university president knew about the activity and failed to act, the university could be liable for extensive legal action as well as criminal charges for complicity if other university employees were aware and assisted in the cover up. With the winter Olympics just around the corner, there will assuredly be more focus on the sexual abuse predicament for the female U.S. Gymnastics Team as the games play out this year.
The victims obviously felt powerless to approach authorities concerning Nasser’s actions during his employment tenure, which also prompts questions concerning those in charge who are responsible for Nassar’s criminal behavior. The fact that the university president was the first to resign from a potential list of other officials who were aware of the issue suggests that more resignations and arrests may be forthcoming, especially if the DOJ does as Gilliland requests.
The NCAA infractions committee has also announced they will conduct an official investigation into the claims, but this too could present problems because there are reports that the NCAA president was told in 2010 that the sex abuse cases were actually happening and the university was avoiding addressing the problem.
It is becoming clear that a Department of Justice investigation coming on the heals of the recent shoe company payoffs for certain college player’s families could put an even larger lens on this problem, including the general manner in which the NCAA operates regarding illegal behavior within the collegiate sports industry. Indeed, if the DOJ steps in, the tip of the iceberg may just be emerging.