The USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal is one of the most shocking in sports history. For over twenty years hundreds of female athletes were sexually abused. Many of them were minors. Even worse, it was known about by people in the highest positions and covered up. This led to a number of lawsuits, jail sentences, and a complete overhaul of the USAG.
Athlete A is a powerful new Netflix documentary that looks at the scandal. Filled with powerful interviews and frank footage, the documentary is disturbing. It follows the journalists who reported on the allegations and the athletes who lived with it for years. It is also a story of systemic abuse.
The film interviews a number of people. Initially, Athlete A seems like it is going to follow the reporters of the Indystar newspaper. The journalists who participated in the nine month investigation give deep insight into what they uncovered. Unsurprisingly, it is very difficult to watch. Especially, when Athlete A traces the history of United States gymnastics. The fact the documentary is able to pinpoint a time and reason as to why gymnasts became younger and smaller is incredibly sad.
Along with the journalists, Athlete A interviews many of the survivors. These interviews are frank and troubling. All the women put on a brave face, but there is obvious pain and sadness. The documentary is also filled with footage that is hard not to turn away from. The recordings of Larry Nassar, the doctor responsible for much of the abuse, is stomach churning. A particularly tough segment sees a montage from the 2000 Olympics. It gives an idea of the agony the young women had to deal with.
Athlete A also touches on why it was so hard for the women to talk. It is terrifying to hear their stories about what happened and why they felt they could not say anything. Some of them also theorize why they felt like they could not talk to anyone. It makes one of the final scenes especially impactful when the survivors confront Nassar.
Some documentaries are almost impossible to watch but have to be seen. Athlete A is one of those films. The movie is an emotional look at how easily it is to look away from an obvious problem. It also examines how nonchalantly those in power will marginalize and abuse anyone they are able to.
Athlete A appears on Netflix June 24.