Washington – Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles told Congress on Wednesday that “enough is enough” in emotional testimony with other young gymnasts about sexual abuse at the hands of USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.
Biles blamed not only the gymnastics organization but also federal law enforcement for crimes such as mistreatment of hundreds of young athletes “turned a blind eye”.
“I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame a whole system that enabled and criminalized his abuse,” Biles said through tears in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said that USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee “knew that I had been abused by their official team doctor long before I became aware of their knowledge.”
Another gold medal-winning gymnast McKayla Maroney told the senators that one night when she was 15, she found the doctor on her own while she was naked — she had been abused multiple times. She said that she thought she was going to die that evening.
Maroney said the FBI “minimized and disregarded” him after reporting Nassar, adding that the agency delayed the investigation because other people were abused. “If they’re not going to protect me, I want to know who they’re trying to protect,” she said.
She continued: “I think we all questioned it for so long, just because no one else was fully validating us, that we suspected what happened to us. And I think the healing The process takes longer.”
The hearing is part of Congress’s effort to hold the FBI accountable after several missteps in the investigation, including delays that allowed Nassar to abuse additional young gymnasts. An internal investigation by the Justice Department released in July stated that the FBI made fundamental errors in the investigation and did not take the case “with the utmost seriousness” when USA Gymnastics first reported the allegations to the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis in 2015. informed of. The FBI has admitted that its own conduct was unforgivable because at least 40 girls and women said they were molested while the FBI was aware of the problem.
Biles and Maroni were joined by another Olympic gold medalist, Aly Raisman, and gymnast Maggie Nichols. Raisman said it “hates me” that six years after the original allegations against Nassar were reported, they are still looking for answers.
“We just can’t fix a problem we don’t understand, and we can’t understand the problem until we have all the facts,” Raisman said.
The FBI reprimanded its own employees who failed to act in the case, saying it “shouldn’t have happened.”
“The actions and inactions of certain FBI employees described in the report are unforgivable and defamatory to this organization,” the agency said in a statement.
“The FBI has taken positive steps to ensure and confirm that those responsible for misconduct and breach of trust will no longer act in FBI cases,” the statement said. “We will take all necessary steps to ensure that employee failures mentioned in the report do not recur.”
The inspector general interviewed an FBI supervisory special agent last September, who said the original allegations reported by Penny and USA Gymnastics were “very vague” and who questioned Penny’s credibility, calling her “a kind of snake oil salesman”. man of”.
That special agent also told investigators that the Indianapolis field office did not have jurisdiction to investigate because the alleged crimes did not take place in Indiana. That agent and an FBI supervisor in the office said they told Penny to contact local law enforcement — a claim refuted by Penny and the president of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors.
The FBI said the supervisory special agent “violated several policies” and that the agency took immediate action when it learned that the agent had not properly documented complaints of sexual abuse, misrepresented evidence and abuse. failed to report.
The report also detailed that while the FBI was investigating Nassar’s allegations, the head of the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis, W.J. Abbott, was talking to Penny about getting a job with the Olympic Committee. The report said he applied for the job, but did not get it and later retired from the FBI.
The report found that Abbott lied several times to investigators from the inspector general’s office in an attempt to “minimize errors” made by his office in handling the case.
Nassar was eventually charged with federal child pornography offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan in 2016.
Hundreds of girls and women said that when they worked for Michigan State and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, hundreds of girls and women said they sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment.
The inspector general’s office said it reviewed thousands of documents and interviewed more than 60 witnesses, including several victims, their parents, prosecutors and current and former FBI employees.
The FBI’s handling of the case was strongly condemned by members of Congress, and some senators called on the Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Attorney General Merrick Garland, to testify about the case.
“We are shocked by the FBI’s gross mismanagement of specific warnings to its agents about the horrific abuse of Larry Nassar,” Sens said.
Nassar’s victims also strongly criticized the FBI for its poor handling of the investigation.
“Dozens of little girls were abused when the FBI knew who Larry was and exactly what he was doing, could and should have been saved,” tweeted Rachel Denhollander, who publicly lashed out at Nassar. She was one of the first women to be accused of abuse.
John Manly, an attorney for more than 150 of Nassar’s victims, said Abbott should be prosecuted and insisted that anyone responsible for wrongdoings in the investigation should be held accountable.
“The OIG report shook conscience,” Manly said. “These women and girls deserve not only a thorough investigation of their case but the respect and full attention of those who investigate their case.”
USA Gymnastics is still grappling with the fallout of the Nassar scandal six years after Penney first contacted officials. The sport’s national governing body has made a massive change in leadership – current president Lee Lee Leung is the fourth person to hold office since the 2016 Olympics – and safety protocols in hopes of providing better protection for athletes.
USA Gymnastics also remains in court as it continues to mediate with dozens of Nassar survivors, though Leung hopes a settlement can be reached by the end of the year.
“Ultimately, we are learning from what has happened and we are using the past to inform how we move forward,” Leung told reporters last month.
The report came on the same day the 2021 US Olympic gymnastics team, a group that includes world and Olympic champion and Nassar abuse survivor Simone Biles, flew to Tokyo for the Games.