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Saturday Sports: Larry Nassar, Winter Olympics


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: Hey, Shohei Ohtani, going to Disneyland? I'll bet he is. The overpowering pitcher and hitter from Japan has signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This could be the beginning of a legend. And while we're on the subject of legends, MVP Giancarlo Stanton is reportedly going to be in Yankee pinstripes next season. But most of the sports news this weekend is about disgrace. We're joined now by Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Larry Nassar, the sports doctor who worked for years with the U.S. gymnastics program, has been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography. But that one charge is just the beginning of describing his crimes over the years, isn't it?

BRYANT: Well, it is. And it's a heartbreaking story. And it's been building for a long time. And the fact that Larry Nassar was sentenced to 60 years - he's 54 years old. So he's going to die in prison, it looks. The sexual assault on the USA gymnasts - the legendary gymnasts - from McKayla Maroney to Gabby Douglas to Aly Raisman - people that we've watched on TV in all of the Olympics - that their claims were finally listened to. It's a terrible story.

You think about this, one, from the standpoint of being a world-class athlete, having to go through this but also having just to be children. The one thing that I've always learned in this - in my career - is when you are covering Olympic athletes, especially, this is your childhood. Their childhood was - one, it's already stolen by trying to be great. And, two, this is something that they're going to have to live with for the rest of their lives. So, obviously, our system is what it is. It's justice, if you want to call it that. But it doesn't really feel like it, even though Larry Nassar's going to prison.

SIMON: People have to wonder, how could somebody so unabashedly wicked be allowed to damage so many young women for so long?

BRYANT: Well I think that's the big issue. And I think that if this is a story that - if we believe that Larry Nassar going to prison is the end of it, then I think we're sorely mistaken, and we're making a huge mistake because you take the bad apple, and you put them in jail, and you leave the system intact. Well, there's going to be other Larry Nassars. USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University - these institutions have a lot to answer for. And you'd like to think that there's going to be big reform because there has to be.

SIMON: 2018 Winter Olympics will open Feb. 9 in South Korea, but no team from Russia. They have been banned from the games for widespread, systematic doping. Russians have been a powerful force on the International Olympic Committee. They've thrown around a lot of money. What finally got the IOC to act?

BRYANT: Well, I think it's just the overwhelming evidence and the fact that this has been going on for so long. Obviously, you remember the tennis player Maria Sharapova being banned for doping two years ago - the International Tennis Federation. And I think that now you're looking at this - you can't ignore this anymore. But the interesting part of this is the compromise, is that the Russian athletes are going to be allowed to compete - however, not under the flag. So if they win, there'll be no national anthem. They'll be able to win their awards - I mean their medals...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...But they will not be celebrated as Russian. So it's a very interesting compromise that you penalize the state, but you don't penalize the athlete.

SIMON: Who'll coach them? I mean, do we know any of that? I guess that's to be determined.

BRYANT: To be determined, yes.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.