Start by Believing

Larry Nassar's Crimes, the Institutions that Enabled Him, and the Brave Women Who Stopped a Monster


By John Barr

By Dan Murphy

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The definitive, devastating account of the largest sex abuse scandal in American sports history-with new details and insights into the institutional failures, as well as the bravery that brought it to light.

For decades, osteopathic physician Larry Nassar built a sterling reputation as the go-to doctor for America’s Olympians while treating countless others at his office on Michigan State University’s campus. It was largely within the high-pressure world of competitive gymnastics that Nassar exploited young girls, who were otherwise motivated by fear and intimidation, sexually assaulting hundreds of them under the guise of medical treatment.

In Start by Believing, John Barr and Dan Murphy confront Nassar’s acts, which represent the largest sex abuse scandal to impact the sporting world. Through never-before-released interviews and documents they deconstruct the epic institutional failures and individuals who enabled him. When warnings were raised, self-serving leaders chose to protect their organizations’ reputations over the well-being of young people.

Following the paths traveled by courageous women-featuring a once-shy Christian attorney and a brash, outspoken Olympic medalist-Barr and Murphy detail the stories of those who fought back against the dysfunction within their sport to claim a far-from-inevitable victory. The gymnasts’ uncommon perseverance, along with the help of dedicated advocates brought criminals to justice and helped to fuel the #MeToo revolution.

Start by Believing reveals the win-at-all-costs culture in elite athletics and higher education that enabled a quarter century of heinous crimes.


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Part I


Chapter 1

The Awkward Introvert

Larry Nassar wanted to be a runner.

Fred Nassar, Larry’s father, was a runner. Fred set records in the 440-yard dash at his high school in Dearborn, Michigan, a blue-collar town on the outskirts of Detroit. Fred grew up to be an engineer. He married a woman named Mary, and they moved a short distance north to start a family. They had five children and named the youngest, born in 1963, Lawrence Gerard Nassar.

Larry was a quiet boy. He joined his junior high school’s track team and planned to continue running at North Farmington High School when he arrived in 1977. But like many younger siblings, Larry wanted the company and approval of his big brother. Mike Nassar, two years older, had found a different role in the North Farmington High athletic department. He was the school’s first student athletic trainer.

Sports medicine and athletic training remained a fledgling field in the 1970s. Most college and professional sports teams had a credentialed trainer, but they were virtually nonexistent at the high school level. It was common for coaches or even a student volunteer to assume those responsibilities.

Mike persuaded Larry to follow him into the field. Larry gave up on running and became the high school’s next student athletic trainer. By the time he started taping ankles and stretching hamstrings for North Farmington High School athletes, Larry had grown to be a trim teenager with a big mop of dark hair above thick, aviator-style eyeglasses.

Mike and Larry were self-taught. They developed their skills by reading books on athletic training and through experience. Larry worked with the football team, the basketball team, and many other student-athletes in the novel role his brother carved for him. Before long, his list of responsibilities included the girls’ gymnastics team at North Farmington. The gymnasts kept him busy during the winter of his senior year. The school’s yearbook summarizes their season as one hampered by injuries. He earned a varsity letter for the amount of time he spent working with the team.

The Nassar siblings, in letters submitted to a federal judge decades later, recalled Larry as a diligent worker, oftentimes showing up late to family dinners in high school due to his training duties.

Larry tinkered. He once tried to find a way to design a football helmet that was easier to remove in the event of a head or neck injury. His oldest sister, Lin, twelve years his senior, invited the boys along to the classical dance classes she taught. Larry studied the ballerinas as they warmed up at the beginning of their classes and took note of how the dancers kept their ankles, knees, and hips limber and healthy. He took what he learned back to school and taught the same stretches to the athletes he was treating.

Larry Nassar’s interest in gymnastics never waned once he was introduced to the sport. He decided to attend the University of Michigan, where he majored in kinesiology, the study of how bodies move and a common stepping-stone to a career in what was the still-burgeoning field of athletic training. He continued to work with athletes—gymnasts and others—on campus in Ann Arbor. He completed his degree in 1985 and moved back toward Detroit to start work on a master’s program in athletic training at Wayne State University. There he sought out a volunteer role working with future Hall of Fame coach Steve Whitlock and his nearby troupe of young gymnasts known as the Acronauts. Whitlock remembers Nassar first approaching him at his gym inside a Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, strip mall when Nassar was still in high school and eager to learn about the types of medical care gymnasts required.

While many high schools offered gymnastics as a sport, the most talented and competitive gymnasts are products of club gyms. Unlike in most other sports, a typical female gymnast hits the prime of her career in her teenage years. Most gyms hold introductory classes for children as young as three or four years old, and the cream of the crop separates itself quickly. By the time they reach junior high, the competitive gymnasts put in long hours at least six days a week. Many are fueled by aspirations of winning medals at national and international meets or earning a college scholarship.

Well-connected club coaches become power brokers, gatekeepers who decide which gymnasts get the time and opportunities to continue climbing. As a skilled gymnast matriculates through the levels of competition with good performances at local, regional, and eventually national competitions, the pool of peers grows smaller, and the community becomes more insular and tightly knit. Gyms and coaches can launch themselves into these elite circles with a single great gymnast. One success story can build a reputation that attracts more top-end talent.

Steve Whitlock had one of the best gyms in Michigan when Nassar joined him during his graduate studies. He connected Nassar with Jack Rockwell, the US national team trainer, and suggested that the motivated young man would be a good fit to help care for athletes at regional and national events. At that time, in a sport that can be particularly hard on the body, it often fell on coaches to tape their gymnasts or assess whether injuries were serious enough to merit a doctor’s visit. Whitlock recognized Nassar’s apparent passion for the sport and thought it could be a great asset for the country’s top gymnasts.

Nassar jumped at the opportunity. He was spending a good deal of his free time dreaming up small inventions to be tested at the gym. He built a contraption that cooled the chalk that the girls used for their grip. Cooler chalk stuck to the hands better and added a little extra relief to palms torn open by endless repetitions on the uneven bars. Nassar also tried to fashion patches of synthetic skin into grips the gymnasts could use to prevent some tearing in the first place. He focused on the ankles, too, developing a set of braces that would lessen the wear and tear of stiff dismounts and hard landings on the joint. He called his braces the “Nassar System” and eventually found enough business to take out full-page advertisements in popular gymnastics magazines. The ads featured elite coaches of Olympic gymnastics touting his product as “the best ankle brace I have ever used for training.”

Now in his mid-twenties, the awkward introvert started to become a familiar face at gymnastics events around the Midwest. He drove to Indianapolis to help out at the Pan-American Games in the summer of 1987. A year later, he flew to Salt Lake City for the 1988 US Gymnastics Olympic Trials. For four long days in early August, he bounced around the Salt Palace Convention Center wearing a red cross on his shirt while working on gymnasts and trying to pick the brains of Olympic doctors.

The coaches in Utah were happy to see Nassar. It was rare to find a medical professional who understood their sport well enough to know how to treat its most common problems. More importantly, he didn’t cost a dime. Nassar volunteered his time and paid his own way to the events, filling up credit cards to attend. He told the coaches and doctors he met that he was eager to learn and gain experience.

Nassar returned to Michigan with a world of potential in front of him. He was now a known entity at the top levels of the gymnastics community and certain he wanted to make a career out of treating injuries of young athletes with a hands-on approach. He had applied earlier that year to medical schools with programs in osteopathy, a branch of medicine that focuses on treating problems by manually manipulating and massaging the body. He stayed close to home. Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine—one of the top programs in the country—accepted Nassar as part of its incoming class in the fall of 1988. He promptly ended his master’s degree training at Wayne State and made plans to move a little more than an hour down the road to East Lansing.

Classes started less than a month after Nassar returned from his trip to Utah. In that time, he packed his belongings in Detroit; settled into his new place; and connected with an ambitious, young coach, a man who was well on his way to building a gymnastics juggernaut just a few miles away from the Michigan State campus.

John Geddert’s star was just starting to rise in the 1980s, but it was already clear to those who knew him well that the brash alpha male with a hard-set jaw and piercing eyes was going to be a force in gymnastics. Geddert’s start as a gymnast came during high school in Alpena, Michigan, a small town in the state’s northeastern corner along the shores of a small scoop of Lake Huron known as Thunder Bay.

He and his high school girlfriend, Kathryn, were standout athletes and decided to attend Central Michigan University together. They married in 1977, after their freshman year. Geddert, who specialized in the horizontal bars, went on to win three letters for the Chippewas before graduating with a degree in health and physical education. Gary Anderson, a coach from the US national team, offered Geddert an entry-level coaching job at MarVaTeens Gymnastics, his gym in Maryland.

Geddert made $150 a week coaching at the private club while trying to lay the groundwork for a career in gymnastics. After four years in Maryland, the Gedderts moved back to Michigan in 1984 where both were offered coaching positions at Great Lakes Gymnastics Club in Lansing. Paula and Don Hartwick started the club a few years earlier in hopes of creating a place where their daughters and other children could enjoy an inclusive, fun-focused gymnastics experience. Geddert’s focus was on winning.

The setting was a humble one when they first arrived. Geddert ran the practices, which were held inside a converted metal warehouse with almost no windows or ventilation. A couple years later, the Hartwicks found a new space down the street that would better accommodate their growing club in a recently vacated school building.

The Walter French School was housed in a three-story, pre–Depression era brick building perched at the corner of Cedar Street and Mt. Hope Avenue until it closed its doors in 1981. Five years later, Great Lakes Gymnastics moved into a small gym on an upper floor, and a cast of coaches under Geddert’s direction went to work building a powerhouse.

By the summer of 1988, the black leotards with red and yellow piping worn by all Great Lakes gymnasts turned heads and intimidated competitors as soon as they appeared at an event. The girls marched into events together, precise and deliberate from the moment they walked through the door. They almost always left with medals around their necks or trophies in hand. Geddert’s demanding coaching style would, over time, produce dozens of state champions and college scholarship offers.

Interest in the sport, and in their club specifically, had grown enough that the gym moved to a bigger space inside the otherwise vacant building. Other entrances to the former school were boarded up with plywood. The neighborhood was not the safest area in Lansing. But inside their corner of the old Walter French Academy, the gym had grown into a formidable operation with top-of-the-line training equipment. And now, thanks to the arrival of a spirited, young medical student looking to build some more experience in treating athletes, Great Lakes was going to be able to offer something no other gym in the area could offer. Larry Nassar, a certified athletic trainer, would be available to the gymnasts on a daily basis to keep them healthy.

Once again, Nassar agreed to work as a volunteer. The coaches at Great Lakes found a space for him to set up his training table in what was once part of a hallway just outside the gym’s walls. A large, metal-grated security gate separated the space from the rest of the abandoned hallway, enclosing the makeshift room. An exit door against the back wall was boarded up to prevent people from breaking into the school. That left only one way in and out of the area—through two sets of heavy, brown doors with loud, clanging push-bars and long, skinny slivers of glass for windows.

The brown doors hung in the back corner of the Great Lakes gym. Nassar walked through the gym’s main entrance each afternoon shouldering a large trainer’s bag stuffed with tapes, lotions, and bottles of pills. He strode past the small viewing gallery with its PVC pipe railing and folding chairs set up for parents, across the floor routine mat, around the edges of the balance beams, and through the vault strip to reach his domain.

Despite the demands of being a first-semester medical student, Nassar, now twenty-five, averaged twenty hours a week in his improvised office at Great Lakes. He told the girls to call him Larry. He waited in his room most weekday afternoons for any gymnast who hurt herself in practice or needed some help dealing with the general wear and tear that comes from long hours of training. Occasionally, he walked the floor of the gym to help with endurance-training circuits. He often could be found with a camera around his neck, snapping pictures of the girls in their leotards or close-up shots of visible injuries. He wanted to document what he saw, he told everyone, to help with his studies.

Schoolwork, even his exams, took a back seat to gymnastics during Nassar’s first semester at medical school in the fall of 1988. When the US and Soviet national teams joined forces in early December for a post-Olympic tour through several large American cities, the organizers invited Nassar to come along to help care for the athletes. The tour visited eight cities in ten whirlwind days and surprised the reporters who covered some of the events with a lightheartedness not usually seen at the sport’s top level. International stars choreographed unique coed routines to the delight of the crowds and at night played pranks on each other. Soviet star Elena Shushunova elated American fans by flashing something she had not shown during her all-around gold medal performance in Seoul months earlier—a smile.

Nassar soaked in the experience while his classmates were back in snowy Michigan taking their final exams. He had convinced all but one of his professors to allow him to take his tests before heading out on the road. Only one—a dreaded biochemistry exam—waited for him on the day he returned to Michigan. After all the fun and long days on tour, he didn’t do well enough for a passing score. He would have to repeat biochemistry the next semester.

If the failed exam was a sign that Nassar was spending too much time with gymnasts, he didn’t heed its warning. During the spring semester of 1989, he continued to spend his afternoons lingering behind the heavy, brown doors at Great Lakes and his weekends helping out at competitions and meets in various cities and towns throughout the Midwest. When it came time for professors to submit final grades, Nassar came up short in biochemistry again.

At the end of the semester, a faculty panel of professors and doctors informed him there would be no spot for him as a second-year student the following school year. He was flunking out of medical school. He explained to the panel that his grades suffered because of the time he dedicated to his work as an athletic trainer. He suggested that he could switch from a four-year plan to a five-year plan, leaving time to continue his work outside the classroom. They told him he didn’t have the priorities or the proper focus to be a student at Michigan State.

Nassar appealed to the dean of the medical school, but his visit to the office of Dean Myron S. Magen was brief. Dr. Magen, who was coming to the end of a long tenure running the program, agreed with his colleagues. Nassar’s plan to become an osteopathic doctor had hit an impasse.

All but out of options, Nassar turned to his friends in the gymnastics community for help. Geddert agreed to write a letter to Magen on his athletic trainer’s behalf. He promised the dean he would keep Nassar out of the old Walter French Academy building until the day he showed up with a diploma from medical school. Nassar drummed up more support from Jack Rockwell, the national team athletic trainer who helped Nassar get a foot in the door and served as one of his early mentors. Rockwell promised the dean that Nassar would also be kept away from all gymnastics events until he finished his coursework. Magen was convinced. It seemed Nassar’s intentions were set back on the right course. He would be allowed to continue taking classes at Michigan State.

Nassar knew what he wanted by the summer of 1989. And now, he had allies who were willing to help him get it. He kept the promises his friends made on his behalf for about a month before returning to the Great Lakes gym. Gymnastics was booming in the United States as the 1980s came to a close. There was no way he was going to stay away.

Chapter 2

The Absolute Monarch

Larry Nassar’s early years in the club gymnastics world came during a period of unprecedented popularity for the sport in America. The three years that followed the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles featured the largest recorded period of growth for USA Gymnastics since the organization started tracking membership numbers—from 40,542 in 1984 to 63,485 in 1987. That three-year stretch remains the largest percentage increase, year over year, in the sport’s history in the United States.

For decades gymnastics in America had been an afterthought. The sport was more art than science, not yet predicated on skills that required power and intensity. In the early to mid-1960s, not a single club or college on US soil owned a full Olympic-sized floor exercise mat. In the Soviet Union, by contrast, gymnastics was taught in schools, and roughly eight hundred thousand people were active in the sport.

Growing up behind the Iron Curtain in Romania, Bela Karolyi was a hulking hammer thrower and boxing champion. Born in 1942, he enrolled in the Romania College of Physical Education in Bucharest, where he struggled to pass a proficiency skills test in gymnastics. Stubborn from the start, Karolyi threw himself into the sport and ended up coaching the women’s collegiate team during his final year of college. He grew close to the team’s star, Marta Eross. They married shortly after graduation, in 1963, the same year Larry Nassar was born, and moved to a growing coal-mining town to teach elementary school.

Years later, while running a gymnastics program in the small mountain town of Oneşti, as Bela Karolyi would later detail in his book about that period of his life, he noticed a six-year-old gracefully flipping cartwheels at recess. He invited her to join his new training school, where he was pushing students beyond their limits in hopes of creating “a new kind of gymnast” that he would describe years later in a book he cowrote as “very athletic, aggressive and powerful, and doing difficult skills.”

Within a decade and with the help of the Karolyis’ coaching, that little girl, Nadia Comăneci, was ready to revolutionize the sport. Prior to 1976, no gymnast had recorded a perfect score of ten during Olympic competition. During the Montreal Olympic games that year, Comăneci recorded seven flawless “perfect 10” performances en route to three gold medals in a performance that propelled the Romanian team to dominance on the world stage. In a country of 21 million citizens that was accustomed to being a satellite state of the Soviet Union, Comăneci and Karolyi became instant celebrities. After Comăneci’s historic performance in Montreal, she was viewed as a national treasure, and Karolyi—a man who never had trouble attracting attention in a variety of ways—was watched closely by the country’s most powerful men.

Four years later at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, when Comăneci failed to win gold in the all-around competition, settling instead for silver behind Russia’s Elena Davydova, Karolyi’s protest caused a temporary disruption at the games. Karolyi’s embarrassing outbursts and criticism of the judges delayed the games for forty minutes. His behavior in Moscow caused him to fall out of favor with the Romanian Communist Party, and he was reprimanded upon his return home.

By then, Karolyi had already clashed with the Communist Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu over the way Ceauşescu had used Comăneci and his national team as propaganda tools. In 1981, with their status within Romania suddenly in question, the Karolyis and their longtime choreographer, Geza Pozsar, defected to the United States while on an international gymnastics tour.

The trio stayed up all night in a New York City hotel room weighing their decision hours before their team was due to fly back to Romania. In the morning, Karolyi said goodbye to Comăneci and told her, according to his book, “If you appreciate everything I did for you, you shut up and don’t say a word. Go, now please, and call the other girls down to the reception area.” Then the Karolyis and Pozsar slipped away to hide out in the apartment of one of Marta’s relatives who had emigrated years earlier.

The powerhouse program Bela and Marta Karolyi developed in Romania was forged with the pain and suffering of the young girls in their care. Pozsar, who worked with them from 1974 to 2002 and would go on to run his own club in California, considers some of the things he witnessed inside the couple’s Romanian training centers to be “atrocities.”

“Bela was an absolute Monarch,” Pozsar said. “He was like Louis XIV of France. He was a dictator. In Romania he had absolute power.”

Pozsar said he witnessed Karolyi verbally but never physically abusing his star gymnast. Comăneci has never accused Karolyi of being physically abusive and won’t speak about her time with the Karolyis. Other former Romanian gymnasts, however, have gone public in recent years, saying it was commonplace for the Karolyis to hit them, deny them food, and push them past the point of exhaustion while they lived and trained at the Karolyis’ gym. In the centralized system that existed in Romania at the time, gymnasts and their parents were given little choice about where and when athletes would train.

Trudi Kollar remembers taking the train through the night in 1976 as a twelve-year-old. She and her mother traveled the 260 miles from their hometown of Arad, Romania, to Oneşti, Comăneci’s hometown and the place where Romania’s elite gymnasts were sent to train with the Karolyis. Back then, Kollar went by the name Emilia Eberle. She says she recalls she and her mother were greeted by a smiling Bela Karolyi the morning after their train ride at the training center and how Karolyi showed them to her new dorm room. Concerned her daughter hadn’t eaten enough on the long train ride, Eberle’s mother took a roll of bread from her bag in front of Karolyi and left it in a drawer for her to eat later. After her mother left (parents were not allowed to be with their children during training), Eberle said Karolyi returned to her room, took the bread, and struck her so hard with an open hand that he knocked her off her feet onto the bed.

“If I ever see anything like this again, I’m going to beat you to death,” she said he hollered at her. That was her first encounter with the man who would train her for the next six years.

Pozsar remembers Karolyi hitting Eberle so hard during practices with his large and powerful hands in her back and on her sides that the sound of the blows echoed through the gym. The Karolyis demanded perfection, and if the gymnasts failed to achieve it during their routines, they would often be slapped in the face or on the backs of their heads or have their hair pulled. Eberle recalls an almost daily routine of physical and emotional abuse.

“It was mostly Marta who would hit us,” Eberle said, recalling how the ring on Marta’s finger and her fingernails frequently left marks and scratches and caused bleeding.

Gymnasts were weighed twice daily, once before the 8:00 a.m. practice and again prior to the afternoon practice. “We were always called fat pigs and cows,” said Eberle, who weighed sixty-six pounds as a fourteen-year-old.

During one training session on the uneven bars, the blisters on Eberle’s hands started to bleed so badly she fell and hit her head.

“Oh look, Bela, she is fat as a pig—maybe she should go on a diet,” Eberle recalls Marta Karolyi saying to her husband at the time.

Pozsar, the choreographer, said he once saw Bela Karolyi strike another gymnast so hard with his open hand after she failed to execute a vault that the girl collapsed to the floor and urinated in her leotard. When Karolyi saw that the young gymnast had soiled the floor, he kicked her, Pozsar said.

In 1978, Gabriela Geiculescu was a national champion gymnast in Romania. She trained with a physically abusive coach in Bucharest who once struck her so hard in the back during a practice she remembers struggling to breathe. As violent as her situation was, she had heard horror stories from other gymnasts who were sent to train with the Karolyis and was terrified when she found out she was being sent to their training center, which by then had moved to the Transylvanian city of Deva.

Geiculescu said she was never physically abused by the Karolyis, but she remembers being so deprived of food she would occasionally eat toothpaste just to have the sensation of flavor in her mouth. She plucked apples from the trash cans on the streets of Deva and would sneak food into her dorm room in a jar, submerging it in the water tank of a toilet in order to hide it from Bela Karolyi’s random searches of her room.

Until recent years, a thin, prepubescent body had long been considered the ideal form for a gymnast to impress the judges at competitions and to execute physically demanding routines. The Karolyis, however, took it to extremes, Pozsar said, going so far as to deny gymnasts food to stave off the onset of puberty.

“[When] they start to get into puberty, they begin to think and to become more conservative,” Karolyi wrote in his book years later. “‘Wait,’ the teenage girl tells herself. ‘I am cute. What for I am falling on my face and bending my nose?’ But until that point they are going freely.… We discovered that you cannot overwork young children.”

Breakfast for the gymnasts consisted of a few crackers with jam, lunch a piece of chicken with greens, and dinner a small sandwich, not even close to enough nourishment to sustain gymnasts, who routinely trained eight hours or more a day.

The gymnasts were also given handfuls of what they were told were “vitamins,” pills that often left Geiculescu so disoriented she struggled to execute routines. She remembers the gnawing hunger and being so “out of her body” from the pills that at one practice she sprinted full speed into the horse during a failed vault attempt and collapsed on the mat.

“I was twelve or thirteen and thinking God doesn’t exist,” she said. “Because if God existed, he wouldn’t let this happen to children.”

Pozsar would sneak gymnasts chocolate and said he has “huge remorse” he was “part of a system so brutal.” The Karolyis, through their attorney, declined to comment for this book, but, in April 2018, the couple addressed past allegations of physical abuse in an interview with NBC News correspondent Savannah Guthrie:



  • "A taut dramatic narrative, critical new reporting, and a full understanding of how Larry Nassar's unfathomable evil was enabled and given long life. Start by Believing will shock you with its truths, and lift you with the courage of these women."—Bob Ley, Emmy Award-winning former host of ESPN's Outside the Lines
  • "This is a horrifying story, and an important one, powerfully and carefully told by journalists John Barr and Dan Murphy. Their meticulously reported narrative presents a riveting account of the courage of these heroic women who will forever define the beginnings of the #MeToo movement."—Christine Brennan, bestselling author and USA Today national sports columnist
  • "Thank you John Barr and Dan Murphy for shedding light on the historical account of the crimes of Larry Nassar. This book connects the dots of when and how this atrocity happened, and chronicles the stories of the brave women who eventually acknowledged their truth, found their voice, and fueled a revolution of Time's Up."—Valorie Kondos Field, Former UCLA gymnastics coach and seven-time NCAA Champion
  • "A meticulously reported and fearless work, Start by Believing is an epic indictment of the people who for decades enabled the culture of abuse and exploitation that made Larry Nassar's crimes possible, even inevitable. John Barr and Dan Murphy expose the institutional callousness-from coaches to top executives at the USAG-and the price that generations of girls and young women have had to pay."—Joan Ryan, bestselling author of Little Girls in Pretty Boxes
  • "Start by Believing is a powerful look at how victims of Larry Nassar's abuse were failed at every step along the way by the institutions-and people-that allowed it to continue unchecked for 25 years. If you want to understand how these unimaginable crimes continued for so long, and what we need to do to ensure that no more young athletes have to face similar dangers, you need to start by reading Start by Believing."—Scott Berkowitz, President and Founder of RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National
  • "Not a day goes by when I don't reflect on the survivors of Larry Nassar's horrific crimes. This empathetic, sensitively written book takes a deeper dive into the lives of the people who were hurt and shines a spotlight on their courage. I thank John and Dan for their efforts, which will no doubt support the overall goal of making our beautiful sport safe for athletes once again."—Dominique Moceanu, 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist
  • "An incredible story."
    Cheddar TV
  • "Shocking...enraging."—Salon Talks
  • "An important story that needs to be told."
  • "[Start By Believing] features reporting so deep, broad, and incisive that it is unlikely to be surpassed...the book is a must-read."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
  • "[A] hard-hitting expose.... Foregrounding several women who finally brought charges, Barr and Murphy vividly convey the sense of confusion and helplessness that beset victims.... The result is a searing indictment."—Publishers Weekly

On Sale
Jan 14, 2020
Page Count
352 pages
Hachette Books

John Barr

About the Author

John Barr has worked as an investigative reporter for ESPN since 2003. In 2019 his coverage of the Larry Nassar scandal was honored with a Peabody Award and the IRE Sports Investigations Award. In 2011, his report on human trafficking during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa won a National Edward R. Murrow Award. Prior to joining ESPN, Barr produced and reported stories for The National Geographic Channel, Court TV, and, for more than a decade, in local television. A native of London, Ontario, Canada. He lives just outside of Philadelphia.

Dan Murphy is an investigative reporter at ESPN. He was honored with a Peabody Award and the IRE Sports Investigations Award in 2019. His coverage of college athletics and broader issues in the world of sports has appeared on ESPN’s digital, television and print outlets. Based now in Michigan, Murphy is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Learn more about this author