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'Safety's always our number 1 priority': Local gymnastics community reacts to Nassar scandal

Posted at 7:10 PM, Feb 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-05 20:10:38-05

The Larry Nassar case is hitting home with gymnastics professionals in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Nassar, a former doctor with Team USA Gymnastics, was sentenced to another 40 to 125 years in prison by a Michigan judge Monday. He's accused of molesting 265 girls and women over two decades under the guise of medical treatment. 

At Wildcard Gymnastics in Brookfield, co-owner Ben Grining said Nassar's actions were shocking to him and other gymnastics parents. 

Grining has three daughters who participate in the sport. 

"Safety's always our number one priority here, and the fact that these incidents happened doesn't change the fact that it's our number one priority," he said. 

Grining added Wildcard Gymnastics is reviewing its policies in the wake of the Nassar scandal. At least one policy has already been changed as a precaution. 

Now, underage gymnasts at the facility must be signed out by a parent. Grining said that prevents a situation in which a child gets sick, or injured, leaves unexpectedly, and is unaccounted for. 

"We watch very carefully who comes in and out," he said.

Grining said it's important to not let one bad apple like Nassar ruin the sport for those who are still interested in gymnastics. 

"There's a lot of good people in gymnastics, and when you get down to it, the people that are here for the right reasons will prevail," he said. 

Monday's court proceeding in Michigan marked the end of the current criminal cases against Nassar and caps an extraordinary outpouring from more than 200 ex-patients who presented impact statements during nine days of hearings. 

Although the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and even the FBI face lingering questions about whether they could have done more to stop Nassar. Several investigations are underway. 

Nassar was previously sentenced to 40 to 175 years in a different Michigan county for molesting seven girls and to 60 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography. 

Monday's sentence in Eaton County stems from sexual abuse that occurred at Twistars Gym, where Nassar was a fixture for years, preying on budding gymnasts with his reputation as a healer who could get any injured athlete competition-ready. 

When he was first publicly accused in September 2016 — after an investigation by the Indianapolis Star — Nassar claimed the "treatments" he performed, often on adolescents, were an accepted medical procedure. 

However, after he was caught with tens of thousands of images of child pornography and accused of molesting a family friend starting when she was six years old, Nassar pleaded guilty in all his cases.