USAG’s culture of abuse

By: Elizabeth Woxland

For over two decades, over 370 gymnasts (primarily minors) encountered sexual abuse “by gym owners, coaches, and staff working for gymnastics programs across the country,” according to an interview in ‘Vice’. Throughout those years, USAG silenced the gymnasts and continued to ignore the reports of molestation, specifically by a USAG doctor, Larry Nassar, who is now named in hundreds of lawsuits for engaging in sexual abuse.

Over 265 women came out to the public, addressing the abuse they faced, which became one of the largest sexual abuse scandals in sports history. This scandal led to the questioning of USAG’s way of training their gymnasts.

After the first allegations of sexual abuse were brought to the attention of USAG, Nassar continued to work for many months after. Maggie Nichols, the athlete who took part in the first allegation, was secretly taken out of the public eye for representing USAG. Many believe Nichols would’ve competed in the 2016 Olympics if she didn’t come forward with her sexual abuse. Nichols’s specific situation was detailed in the Netflix movie ‘Athlete A’ and she was also  interviewed by NBC.

Other abuse scandals started to arise after the sexual abuse scandal was brought to the public. Bela and Martha Karolyi are head coaches for USAG, and are now facing backlash for their abusive way of coaching.

The training that the girls in USAG have is now being criticized for a toxic culture and unsafe way of training. The average competitive gymnast for USAG trains year round for as much as 12 hours a day.

It was a very regular thing for girls injuries to be overlooked. In a ‘PE’ article they state: “Nine out of every 10 gymnasts we interviewed said that they had continued to train on injuries that resulted in broken bones or surgery or that they had resumed training without getting clearance from a doctor.” Think of the so-called “inspiring moment” when Kerri Strugg broke her leg on her first vault, and her coaches convinced her to still do a second vault.

This goes to show the toxic culture of winning at all costs in the mindset of USAG coaches and
trainers.

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