A FILM BY Erin Lee Carr
At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal
Available to stream on HBO GO, HBO NOW, and ON DEMAND.
Available to stream on HBO GO and HBO NOW same day - 5 PM (PST)
For more than two decades Dr. Larry Nassar was the osteopathic physician for the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, as well as a physician at Michigan State University (MSU). During that time, he sexually abused hundreds of female athletes.
Based on years of research by producers Dr. Steven Ungerleider and David Ulich (Munich ‘72 and Beyond) and featuring brave testimonials from the athletes at the center of the story, director Erin Lee Carr’s (Mommy Dead and Dearest and the upcoming I Love You, Now Die) powerful documentary, At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal, reveals a dangerous system that prioritized winning over everything else, including protecting young female athletes. Through interviews with dozens of survivors, as well as coaches, lawyers, and journalists, the film exposes an environment in which young women spent their youth competing for victory on a world stage, juxtaposed against a culture where abuse was hidden, and lives were forever damaged.
For more than 30 years, Dr. Larry Nassar worked with athletes, especially gymnasts, as a respected trainer and team physician. He taught Sunday school, volunteered in the community and was seemingly well-liked. While Nassar tended to aches and pains, becoming a friend and confidant to many girls along the way, some of the methods he presented as treatment were sexual abuse.
For years, accusations and evidence grew against the doctor, as several young women came forward to their coaches, universities and parents. At Michigan State, mounting evidence suggested that reports of Nassar’s improper treatments, which sometimes occurred when parents were present, were dismissed by officials who chose to defend the popular doctor.
In 2016, after Rachael Denhollander went public with her story in the Indianapolis Star, the tide finally began to turn against Nassar, as more and more women filed lawsuits against him and the institutions that had shielded him for so long.
Nassar was subsequently fired from MSU. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography after 37,000 images were found on his computer. He eventually also pleaded guilty to abuse charges in Michigan, with the understanding that another 125 cases would not be tried. After one of the most high-profile trials in recent history, Nassar was found guilty and is currently in federal prison.
At his January 2018 Ingham County sentencing, 88 survivors had been scheduled to make statements. By the end of that week, 156 women, all with a shared history of abuse, had bravely come forward. Chelsea Zerfas spoke of the impact of the trauma and her journey to heal, stating, “I get scared that I will be taken advantage of once again by another doctor, just like you did. I’ve tried my best to gain back the strength I once had. I am a survivor. Here I am today facing my abuser. I’m finally being heard. I’m no longer hiding my story.”
Trinea Gonczar, another survivor and a longtime family friend of Nassar, said to her abuser, “You hurt me, as I’ve had to realize I was abused for many years of my life…I will do everything for the rest of my life to make sure that the ‘you’s’ of this world don’t get to hurt another one of us.”
After a week of powerful testimonies, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina meted out a 175-year sentence, effectively imprisoning Nassar for life. Because so many survivors went public, some of the institutions and athletic organizations that protected Nassar, began to implement changes.
In March 2018, MSU agreed to a $500 million settlement for athletes abused by Nassar. In October 2018, Steve Penny, former president of USA Gymnastics, was arrested for tampering with evidence in the Nassar case. His case is still pending.
Congress went on to pass legislation enforcing mandatory reporting of sexual abuse in amateur sports. One week after Nassar’s sentencing, the entire board of USA Gymnastics resigned. One month later, Scott Blackmun stepped down as the chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee, an organization that also moved to decertify USA Gymnastics as the sport’s governing body.
At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal is directed by Erin Lee Carr; executive producers, Sarah Gibson, Michael Cascio, Gerald R. Molen; producers, Dr. Steven Ungerleider and David Ulich. For HBO: executive producers, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller; supervising producer, Sara Rodriguez.
If you or a friend or family member have been impacted by child sex abuse, this film may be particularly difficult to view. Viewers who may be impacted are encouraged to make a personal care plan ahead of watching the broadcast.
With COURAGE FIRST, The Foundation for Global Sports Development will support youth-serving organizations and institutions in creating safe and abuse-free environments for children and teens.
Tour of screenings of At Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal began shortly after the HBO release and will continue at film festivals, universities, sporting events and community town halls across the U.S. and around the world. Upcoming stops include the New York Public Library, Brown University, Michigan State University, Jerusalem Cinematheque and the Women Sports Film Festival in San Francisco. Speakers at select screenings will include producers, Dr. Ungerleider and Mr. Ulich; leading child abuse prevention partners; as well as COURAGE FIRST Survivor advocates.
Following select screenings, COURAGE FIRST will lead a presentation about the film’s themes of child sex abuse in sports, what “grooming” looks like and the long-term trauma of sexual violence to help viewers connect the dots and take action in preventing child abuse in their own environments. Furthermore, the program will include strategic discussion guides, roundtables and surveys.
To book a screening, please click here.
News & Press
ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL 2019: AT THE HEART OF GOLD DISCUSSION
For more than two decades, Dr. Larry Nassar was the physician for the US women’s Olympic gymnastics team – and a serial sexual abuser who chalked up hundreds of victims. Director Erin Lee Carr’s powerful documentary, with its brave testimonials from athletes at the center of the story, reveals a dangerous system that prioritizes winning above all. Based on years of research and interviews with dozens of survivors, coaches, lawyers, and journalists, the film exposes the competitive environment in which world-class female athletes pursue victory, juxtaposed against a culture of hidden and life-damaging abuse. Two of the gymnasts featured in the film, and its producers, join a panel discussion following the screening.
- August 15, 2019 – COURAGE FIRST Sends “At the Heart of Gold” On Tour To Prevent Child Sex Abuse (Yahoo Finance)
- May 14, 2019 – MTV Movie & TV Awards: ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘RBG’ Lead Nominations (The Hollywood Reporter)
- May 5, 2019 – Critics Pick: “At the Heart of Gold” Review: A Thorough Record of Sexual Abuse (The New York Times)
- May 3, 2019 – HBO’s ‘At the Heart of Gold’ focuses on Nassar abuse scandal, survivors (Fox 2 Detroit)
- May 2, 2019 – A New Film Reveals How Larry Nassar Benefited From a Culture of Silence (The Atlantic)
- May 2, 2019 – HBO LARRY NASSAR DOCUMENTARY ‘AT THE HEART OF GOLD’ WAS IN THE MAKING BEFORE HE WAS ACCUSED (Newsweek)
- May 2, 2019 – Podcast: A look inside ‘At the Heart of Gold’ (Reuters)
- May 2, 2019 – Looking Inside the USA Olympics Scandal (The Malibu Times)
- May 2, 2019 – What’s on TV Friday: ‘Gloria and Emilio Estefan: Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song’ on PBS (Los Angeles Times)