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U.S. Gymnastics Scandal Gets Unfortunate Honor: AP Sports Story of the Year

23 Jan, 2019

By: Michael Popke

While 2018 was filled with memorable sports stories — a fourth-down trick play in Super Bowl 52, an 18-inning Game 3 in the World Seriesand an NHL expansion team advancing to the Stanley Cup Final — the Associated Press deemed the fraying of USA Gymnastics and the Larry Nassar abuse scandal the year’s top sports story, as determined by AP members and editors.

“The depths of Larry Nassar’s depravity began to emerge some 15 months before the calendar flipped to 2018 — when reports of his sexual abuse first appeared in newspaper stories that would eventually lead to a trial and, ultimately, to the doctor’s imprisonment,” explained an AP story posted online on Christmas Eve. “But it was January 2018, the month when more than 150 female athletes testified at Nassar’s sentencing hearing for convictions on child-porn and sex-abuse charges, that marked a turning point in a crisis that has inflicted untold damage.

“The testimony brought the true nature and number of Nassar’s crimes to the fore, triggering spasms of anger, soul-searching and attempts at reform, while also giving women in sports — and society in general — a more powerful voice when it comes to exposing abuse that had been swept out of the public’s conscience for decades.”

In December, USA Gymnastics, whose leadership ranks have been decimated by the scandal, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as part of a reorganization effort.

While the story will continue to unfold in 2019 (Michigan State University's interim president was removed for making derogatory remarks about Nassar's victims, and the University of Michigan had to rescind a job offer made to a gymnastics coach after finding out the individual had been embroiled in the scandal as well), it is likely to have an impact even further as the United States Olympic Committee has moved to drop USA Gymnastics’ national governing body status — it’s already brought the #metoo movement to the sports world. That left at least one of Nassar’s victims feeling optimistic.

“I think we have opened this door and revealed a lot of bad truths about our sport and sports in general,” 2012 Olympics gold medalist Jordyn Wieber, who testified against Nassar, told the AP. “People are opening their eyes a little bit more.”

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