Larry Nassar Was A Master Manipulator, But He Didn’t Act Alone

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The first time I got a message from Larry Nassar, I felt honored. I was a college student just beginning what would eventually become a career writing about gymnastics. In the gym world, I was nobody. And the world-famous doctor for the U.S. women’s national gymnastics team wanted to talk to me?

Nassar was such a passionate fan of the sport. His job was to help gymnasts recover from injuries and to keep them healthy so they could go on to win medals at world championships and the Olympic Games, yet he was invested far beyond what his duties required. If someone fell and tore an Achilles tendon or dislocated a knee at one of the top-secret national team training camps, he’d let me know, along with his commentary. “No days off all week, it’s harsh,” he’d confide. “[National team coordinator] Martha Karolyi expects too much from them, and wonders why they’re all injured at Worlds.”

I am not a gymnast. Nassar never treated me, and every in-person exchange we shared was professional and friendly. I never wondered why he “chose” me to be his gossip buddy, but I loved all of the inside intel he gave me. And, like thousands of others, when I first heard about sexual abuse accusations against him, I thought, “Larry?! No way.”

Nassar is handcuffed in the courtroom at the end of a day of testimony during his sentencing hearing. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Later, I realized why those thousands of us had the same response, including many girls and women who didn’t even realize that the “treatment” he performed on them was abuse. Nassar used his charm and his position as national team doctor to make everyone his gossip buddy, his special friend, his best pal ― so that when the world he built one day came crumbling down, he’d have an army of supporters defending him. Even after he was convicted for possession of child pornography, even after the number of alleged victims rose over 150, even after last…

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