Simone Biles and other U.S. gymnasts condemned USA Gymnastics, the Olympic committees, and the FBI for ignoring sexual abuse allegations about convicted predator Larry Nassar — or helping cover them up.
The Justice Department's watchdog found the FBI repeatedly botched its handling of sexual abuse allegations against the former USA gymnastics physician in a damning July report showing bureau officials didn't take the claims seriously, failed to alert local authorities, broke FBI rules, covered up their missteps, and lied to investigators.
Biles, one of the most decorated gymnasts of all time and widely considered one of the best ever, delivered her remarks in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday while occasionally pausing to hold back tears.
"As an elite gymnast, I have had the honor to represent the United States of America in multiple international competitions, including world championships and the Olympic Games. Over the course of my gymnastics career, I have won 25 World Championship medals and seven Olympic medals for Team USA. That record means so much to me, and I am proud of my representation of this nation through gymnastics," Biles said. "I am also a survivor of sexual abuse, and I believe without a doubt that the circumstances that led to my abuse and allowed it to continue are directly the result of the fact that the organizations created by Congress to oversee and protect me as an athlete, USA Gymnastics, and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee failed to do their jobs."
Biles added: "I don't want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete, or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured before, during, and continuing to this day in the wake of the Larry Nassar abuse. To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse."
The report by DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz detailed how the FBI mishandled its investigations into Nassar, who used his position as a cover to molest dozens of young girls and women. Horowitz found that senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis Field Office "failed to respond" to the Nassar allegations in 2015 "with the utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and required" and "made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and failed to notify state or local authorities of the allegations or take other steps to mitigate the ongoing threat posed by Nassar."
Nassar worked as a physician and professor at Michigan State University, treating patients from 1996 to 2016. During most of that time, he also worked as the USA Gymnastics national medical coordinator, treating athletes at the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center in Texas.
USA Gymnastics conducted an internal investigation into sexual assault allegations leveled against Nassar, and USA Gymnastics CEO Stephen Penny Jr. alerted the FBI's Indianapolis Field Office in July 2015. But the FBI did little to follow up.
"These failures by Indianapolis officials contributed to a delay of over a year in the proper FBI field office and local authorities initiating investigations that ultimately determined that Nassar had engaged in widespread sexual assaults of over 100 victims and possessed child pornography, led to convictions in both federal and state court and resulted in jail sentences totaling over 100 years," Horowitz wrote.
"I sit before you today to raise my voice so that no little girl must endure what I, the athletes at this table, and the countless others who needlessly suffered under Nassar's guise of medical treatment, which we continue to endure today," Biles said. "We suffered and continue to suffer because no one at the FBI, USAG, or the USOPC did what was necessary to protect us. We have been failed, and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled deserve to be held accountable."
Nassar pleaded guilty in 2017 to federal charges of child pornography and tampering, and, combined with a guilty plea in Michigan state court to counts of sexual assault, Nassar, 57, is set to spend the rest of his life in prison.
McKayla Maroney, a gold medalist Olympic gymnast, condemned the bureau for failing to act on her allegations of Nassar's abuse.
"I was molested by the U.S. Gymnastics national team and Olympic team doctor, Larry Nassar. And in actuality, he turned out to be more of a pedophile than he was a doctor," Maroney said. "What I'm trying to bring to your attention today is something incredibly disturbing and illegal. After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said."
Maroney added: "After reading the Office of Inspector General's OIG report, I was shocked and deeply disappointed at this narrative they chose to fabricate. They chose to lie about what I said to protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others. My story is one in which Special Agent in Charge Jay Abbott and his subordinates did not want you to hear."
Former Indianapolis Field Office Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott came in for particular scrutiny and criticism by the inspector general. The inquiry "concluded that Abbott violated FBI policy and exercised extremely poor judgment under federal ethics rules." Specifically, when Abbott "communicated with Penny about a potential job opportunity with the U.S. Olympic Committee" while continuing to discuss the FBI's Nassar investigation with Penny.
Maggie Nichols, a world championship gold medalist and former top NCAA gymnast, also testified before the Senate on Wednesday.
"I was named as ‘Gymnast 2' in the Office of Inspector General's report and previously identified as ‘Athlete A' by USA Gymnastics. I want everyone to know that this did not happen to Gymnast 2 or Athlete A — it happened to me," Nichols said. "USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the FBI have all betrayed me and those who were abused by Larry Nassar after I reported."
Aly Raisman, the third most decorated American gymnast in history, also spoke, saying, "It is naive to assume the problem only lies with Nassar. It is unrealistic to think we can grasp the full extent of culpability without understanding how and why USAG and USOPC chose to ignore abuse for decades and why the interplay among these three organizations led the FBI to willingly disregard our reports of abuse."
FBI supervisory special agent Michael Langeman, who interviewed Maroney in 2015 about her claims that Nassar had abused her, was reportedly fired by the FBI last week, ahead of Wednesday's testimony. Langeman had been a lead agent at the FBI's Indianapolis field office, and the DOJ inspector general's report concluded that he and Abbott had lied to the watchdog about the saga. Abbott retired years ago, but despite Langeman's botching of the case, he apparently clung to his job until a few days ago.
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