• College On Tap

Colleges: Fix Your Sport's Department and Realize What Happened with Larry Nassar!

By: Candice Zhang

Around four years ago, a situation struck the sports world amid the Rio Olympics. USA Gymnastics – the team that has won two consecutive team gold medals for the Olympic games – has now come under scrutiny. It wasn’t for the athlete’s injuries or their performances. However, the case involved a doctor – Larry Nassar, and young gymnasts. Nassar was first sentenced on August 26th after being accused of assaulting over 250 gymnasts in a span of 24 years. He was asked to stay in prison for over 275 years serving in both federal and state jails. Many people were also indirectly affected by the situation, including the employees from Michigan State University. Lou Anna Simon, the former president of MSU, resigned her position during Larry Nassar’s trial. Since many individuals believed that Simon lied to the investigators about her not knowing Nassar’s situation, she was charged with two felonies and two misdemeanours. The charges have recently been dropped by the judge.

Regardless of the controversy behind the judge’s decision, MSU is still facing over $4.5 million in fines. Some authorities in the medical, athletics, and the legal affairs departments have all resigned from their positions as a result of the situation. These individuals include former school doctor Brooke Lemmen, the Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine William Strampel, and the Vice President of Legal Affairs Bob Noto. Other employees holding authoritative positions such as Kathie Klages – a former gymnastic’s coach- have also been charged for lying to investigators. Klages, specifically, is facing up to four years in prison at the moment.

Even after Larry Nassar was fired from his position at USA Gymnastics, he never left his job at MSU. The university has held him in high regard to the point where students would look up to him as a mentor. But his reputation was masked beneath ingenuity and disrespect. Toxicity in sports was ignored, as winning was the only goal.

Times have changed since the situation came into light. After the release of Athlete A, people are becoming more aware of the toxic culture within the Sport’s industry. The pressure to win, perform well, and outshine others puts a strain on the relationship between a coach and an athlete. This competitive behaviour is not only shown in the Olympics but exasperated in College sports as well. As ‘Homecoming’ Season is becoming more popular now than ever, athletes are always trying to win under pressure. Picture yourself on a field, wearing a shirt with a printed school logo while representing the team you love. You don’t want to fail or make a fool out of yourself. The coaches always remind you that you’re there to win and to make the team feel proud. Food and fitness regimes are forced onto you, consuming your daily habits and even taking a toll on your mental health.

The idea of ‘winning’ is sometimes too much for athletes alone. By focusing on ‘winning,’ the team becomes carried astray from the bigger picture, allowing unfortunate events – like Larry Nassar’s case, to emerge. Although it will be great to see our own college team winning the Nationals, treating athletes like objects is merely not worth it. Just like other students, they are juggling with school, extracurriculars, and relationships. Even if they are talented in the sport, their skills must be acknowledged and embraced, instead of overworked. Therefore, for schools around the world – not just MSU, we must start to create a safer and healthier environment for our athletes. We must make mental health and other support services readily available for members of Sports teams. Whenever any college athlete speaks up about their feelings of discomfort, we – as students – must be there for them.

Moreover, the authorities also must listen and change their behaviour if required. In order to do this, they must first view Sports events in a different perspective. Instead of viewing them as a way to win and show off the team, they should view focus on bringing people with different interests together. After all, sports are about teamwork – not dominance. With more collective effort, less abuse will likely occur and more athletes will be there to look out for one another.

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