Athlete A is a documentary that looks at the investigation and subsequent prosecution of Larry Nassar, the doctor who abused hundreds of USA gymnasts over a twenty-year period. It is a story that many of us are familiar with and is no less shocking even when you know the outcome.
The documentary starts with the investigative journalists from The Indianapolis Star. Originally they were looking into allegations against USA Gymnastics coaches, none of which had ever been reported to the police. Not only were they covered up, but the coaches themselves were also simply moved around the country.
However, as they discovered, the issues went far deeper than that. A systematically abusive regime was par for the course at USA Gymnastics. Athletes were verbally, mentally and physically abused on a daily basis as part of the formula to breed gold medalists. That all took place at the Karolyi Ranch, a gymnastics camp facility that was the main training center for the US women's national gymnastics team. It was also where Nassar preyed on young women.
Once the story broke, Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast, contacted the journalists regarding Larry Nassar. So too did two other former athletes. With three unrelated women telling the same story, The Indianapolis Star pursued the story and discovered that Maggie Nichols, had actually reported Nassar in 2015. Nassar was interviewed by police and claimed that the ‘procedures' he carried out were all medically necessary.
But through doggedly investigating every aspect of what happened, the newspaper was able to uncover the sexual assault of hundreds of young women. Nassar was prosecuted and justice was finally achieved for the survivors.
Athlete A is an incredible documentary that covers a highly sensitive and disturbing topic. Handled with great care and grace, it focuses on the facts of what happened. The courage of the women who first came forward is at the heart of the film as are the revelations about the toxicity of American women's gymnastics. From the top-down, it is patently clear that those in charge were willing to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of women in the pursuit of money and medals.