COLUMN: Protecting our children

Mark Spensley
Express Co-Publisher

     The gymnastics world has been under some very heavy scrutiny this past week as former Michigan State associate professor and USA gymnastics medical director, Dr. Larry Nassar, sat in a courtroom and listened to nearly 100 victims and advocates give their powerful victim impact statements.

     Nassar has been convicted for several sickening offenses including possession of child pornography and criminal sexual conduct. He is currently serving 60 years in prison for the child pornography charges.

     Just as sickening as Nasser’s offenses are, there is a big question that needs to be answered, why after all of these years, when accusations were leveled against him many years ago, was he left in the position of treating these young girls, many whom are not adult women?

     After reading thru the Outside The Lines report on ESPN, I couldn’t help ask myself, why didn’t the adults that were close to this situation make correct decisions that would have stopped this abuse many, many years ago?

     You can look to several events where the abuse could have been stopped and this monster could have been put away.

     Some parents were told by their children what was going on. Several of them attempted to get to the bottom of their children’s accusations. Some were told the doctor was performing viable procedures.

     Some refused to believe their own children. Others were so proud of the fact that this renowned physician was treating their young athletes. Nassar himself groomed these parents into believing he had their young girls’ best interests at heart.

     USA gymnastics seemed to ignore the fact that their medical doctor was a child molester.

     Michigan State, where many of these girls were training under the Great Lakes Gymnastics Club in nearby Lansing under coach John Geddert, seemed to look the other way when reports surfaced that one of their faculty might be a sexual predator.

     Coach Geddert was known as a fierce and demanding coach. Dr. Nassar was known to be the one to wipe away the tears and sneak the girls treats. Together these two men worked side-by-side for 25 years.

     Together they rose to gymnastics prominence, coaching and treating the best USA women gymnasts.

     Several lawsuits have been filed against MSU, USA Gymnastics and Nassar himself.  Nassar will see his life end in prison but he will get off easy and hundreds of female athletes will live with the abuse he caused them. One can only pray these ladies find a way to heal.

     Hopefully the enablers get their just due as well.

     Hawkeye basketball. Back in mid-November I received an anonymous letter in the mail after I had written a column about the Hawkeye and Cyclone football programs. The column mostly dealt with the direction the Hawks were headed (south) and the Cyclones whom were trending north after Iowa beat ISU in Ames in OT.

     The author of the letter accused me of being a “Closet  Cy-Clown” fan. Anyone that regularly reads my columns or knows me well knows that I bleed black and gold. But I have come around and softened my stance when it comes to the Cyclones, realizing that a lot of my friends and readers are alumni and fans and deserve to read good things about their team.

     The letter writer went on to ask if I would print anything good about Iowa basketball since ISU was 0-1 and Iowa was 2-0 at the time. Well buddy, what the heck would you like me to say about the Hawkeye basketball team now?

     Even though the Hawks are really struggling and sit at 10-11 and 1-7 in conference play, I will still keep watching them and cheering them on. I believe in Coach Fran and feel he will come back strong after this tough season. I wonder what my critic thinks. Maybe another unsigned letter will show up in the mail with his enlightening thoughts.



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