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American gymnasts testify to the abuses of Larry Nassar: “We failed”

Washington – The country’s most famous and decorated gymnasts offered poignant testimony to senators on Wednesday about the sexual abuse they suffered from former US gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, arguing that the failure of institutions like the FBI to immediately investigate allegations of abuse allowed his misconduct to continue unanswered as the number of its victims was increasing.

Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a two-part hearing into the FBI’s mismanagement of the investigation into Nassar, who was found to have assaulted sexually numerous young athletes while working in Michigan. State University and with USA Gymnastics. Nichols was the first victim by Nassar to report his abuse to USA Gymnastics.

“What’s the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents bury this report in a drawer?” Maroney told the panel. “They had legal and legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing.”

Maroney recalls speaking with the FBI in the summer of 2015 and providing “extreme details” about Nassar’s abuse in an almost three-hour telephone interview. But the office did not open an investigation into his alleged misconduct until more than a year later, because revealed by the Inspector General of the Ministry of Justice in July.

Maroney said her interview with the office was not documented until 17 months later, and she accused the FBI of making “totally false claims” about what she told them.

“They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others,” she said, arguing that the office, USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee worked together to cover up the allegations against Nassar.

American gymnasts testify to the abuses of Larry Nassar: “We failed”
From left to right, American gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman are sworn in to testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

Saul Loeb / AP

Wednesday’s hearing comes after the Justice Department’s Inspector General concluded in a damning report this summer that FBI employees botched the investigation into allegations of gymnast sexual abuse by Nassar in 2015 and 2016 .

The Inspector General found the FBI field office in Indianapolis learned of the allegations against Nassar in July 2015, after USA Gymnastics conducted its own internal investigation into sexual assault charges. But the office did not open an investigation until October 2016, after the Indianapolis Star published a success story detailing allegations of sexual assault against Nassar by former gymnasts, and the Michigan State University Policy Department has investigated the complaints against him.

Nassar worked as a doctor at the university, treating patients there from 1996 to 2016.

Between July 2015, when USA Gymnastics reported the allegations to the FBI office in Indianapolis, and September 2016, when the accusations were made public, at least 70 young athletes were abused by Nassar, according to the report.

The Inspector General also noted that the officer in charge of the Indianapolis office, W. Jay Abbott, had spoken to former USA Gymnastics President Stephen Penny about a possible employment opportunity within of the United States Olympic Committee while continuing to participate in the bureau’s discussions regarding the Nassar Inquiry.

In addition to the Indianapolis field office’s “most basic failures in its law enforcement responsibilities,” the watchdog found that the office failed to inform state and local authorities of the allegations against Nassar and had not documented an interview with one of Nassar’s accusers, among others. problems.

Before the hearing, the FBI fired an agent who did not investigate the allegations against Nassar. Nassar was arrested in November 2016 and has faced numerous state and federal charges. He was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison for offenses of sexual abuse and child pornography.

During their testimony on Wednesday, several of the gymnasts held back tears as they recounted Nassar’s sexual abuse, including Biles, who, after detailing his unparalleled success as a gymnast, said: “I am also an assault survivor. sexual. “

“I definitely believe that the circumstances which led to my abuse and allowed it to continue are a direct result of the organizations created by Congress to monitor and protect me as an athlete, USA Gymnastics and United States Olympic and Paralympic The committees did not do their job, ”she said.

Young gymnasts, said Biles, “have failed and we deserve answers.”

“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that allowed and perpetrated his abuses,” she said, increasingly moved.

Biles competed at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo and said she was the only member of the U.S. team to have been abused by Nassar.

“The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with us all,” she said. “The impacts of this man’s abuse are never over or forgotten.”

Like Maroney, Raisman recalled her experiences with the FBI, telling senators she made “many requests” to speak with the office about Nassar’s misconduct, but said it took 14 months for the office contacts her.

“It has become painfully clear how much a survivor’s recovery is affected by dealing with her abuse and it disgusts me that we are still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability over six years later,” he said. she told the committee, taking a deep breath before making her opening remarks.

Raisman said that in 2015, officials knew that at least six gymnasts had been abused by Nassar, but he was allowed to continue working at Michigan State University and Twistars USA Gymnastics Club.

“It was like serving innocent children to a pedophile on a silver platter,” she said.

Following the testimony of the gymnasts, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz answer questions from the judicial panel.

“The FBI’s handling of the Nassar case is a stain on the desk,” said Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who chairs the committee.