Four years after an investigation by the Indianapolis Star revealed USA Gymnastics’ failure to report allegations of sexual misconduct by coaches, Netflix is returning to the high-profile story with Athlete A. The documentary, from filmmakers Bonni Cohen and John Shenk, follows the IndyStar journalists who broke the sexual abuse story, the whistleblowers who sounded the alarm, and the toxic and broken system that enabled the cover-up. Hundreds came forward to say they were abused, and one name appeared in lawsuits again and again: Larry Nassar, who for 29 years was the doctor for the U.S. women’s national gymnastics team in addition to working at Michigan State.
Nassar is now a convicted sex offender and in prison as a result of the journalists who exposed him, as well as the survivors who came forward.
The first survivor came forward weeks after IndyStar’s initial report: on August 29, 2016, former gymnast Rachael Denhollander filed a criminal complaint alleging Nassar sexually abused her in 2000, when she was 15. On September 12, 2016, Denhollander and a former Olympic gymnast accused Nassar of abuse in an IndyStar report, and days later, on September 20, MSU fired Nassar. (At this point, Nassar wasn’t with USA Gymnastics — the organization fired him in 2015 “after learning of athlete concerns,” NBC News reports.) Victims continued to come forward, including Jamie Dantzscher, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, and Jordyn Wieber.
In December 2017, he was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges. A month prior to Nassar being charged for child pornography, in November 2017, Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Three of the charges applied to a victim under 13. In January 2018, Nassar was sentenced 40 to 175 years in prison for those crimes following a seven-day hearing in which more than 150 women publicly spoke of their experiences of abuse. Nassar has since filed appeals for both sentences; a judge upheld the federal sentence in 2018 while the Michigan attorney general’s office said the judge did not show judicial bias, ABC News reports.
Nassar had in total been charged with 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and 11 counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct at state level, CNN reports. Nassar is currently incarcerated in a Florida federal prison, where he will likely die. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina acknowledged this as she delivered Nassar’s second sentencing: “I just signed your death warrant,” she said.