WASHINGTON – Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, considered one of the world’s greatest gymnasts, broke down in tears on Wednesday as she shared her story of sexual abuse by US gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Biles, who won 25 world championship medals and seven Olympic medals for the United States team, said in her opening statement that she believed the abuse had occurred because the organizations created by Congress to protect her as an athlete – USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee – “didn’t do her job.”
“I don’t want another young gymnast, or Olympic athlete, or any other individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured before, during and today as a result of the abuse of Larry Nassar, “Biles said, his voice choked with emotion.
His testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday comes after a report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General released in July detailed the FBI’s mismanagement of the Nassar case.
Biles said after reading the report, she felt that the FBI “turned a blind eye.”
“We have suffered and continue to suffer because no one in the FBI, USAG or USOPC did what was necessary to protect us,” she said. “We have failed and we deserve answers. Nassar is where it belongs, but those who made it possible deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I have no doubts it will continue to happen to others in Olympic sports. “
Wednesday’s hearing also included testimony from decorated gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, who described their abuses in sometimes graphic detail and called on the institutions and people who should have protected them to account.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who did not head the agency during the initial investigation, and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz also testified before the committee. Wray described the changes the FBI made to ensure it conducts proper investigations into allegations of sexual abuse in the future. He also confirmed that the FBI agent accused of failing to investigate the allegations was recently fired.
Maroney, 25, who is now retired from the sport, repeated in detail what she first said to the FBI during a three-hour conversation in the summer of 2015.
“The first thing Larry Nasser ever told me was to change into shorts with no underwear on, as it would make it easier for him to work on me, and within minutes he had his fingers in my vagina,” said Maroney to lawmakers. “The FBI then immediately asked, ‘Did he put his fingers in your rectum? I said, ‘No, he never did.’ They asked him if he was using gloves. I said, ‘No, he never did.’ They asked me if this treatment had ever helped me. I said, ‘No, it never did.’ This treatment was 100% abuse and never gave me relief. “
Maroney said that during a trip to Tokyo, Nassar gave him a sleeping pill for the plane ride so he could “work on me later that night.”
“That night I was naked, completely alone, with him on top of me, molesting me for hours. I said [the FBI] I thought I was going to die that night because there was no way he would let me go. But he did, ”said Maroney, who went on to detail many other cases where Nassar assaulted her.
Maroney alleged that the FBI not only “played down” her allegations, but also silenced her and falsified her report.
Aly Raisman, who is also retired from gymnastics and competed with Maroney at the London 2012 Olympics, said it took 14 months for the FBI to question him about the allegations against Nassar despite numerous previous requests. . Raisman said the FBI, USAG and USOPC “quietly allowed Nassar to come out the side door” and continue his work, finding more than 100 new victims to assault.
“It was like serving innocent children to a pedophile on a silver platter,” said Raisman, who added that the FBI also made him feel that his abuse “didn’t matter and that it didn’t matter. “.
Asked by lawmakers what kind of accountability gymnasts would like to see, Raisman said it was important to examine all connections between the FBI, USAG and USOCP via an independent investigation into allegations dating back to decades.
“No one should be banned. Nothing should be banned, ”she said. “Personally, I would like all three organizations to be fully investigated. “
Biles added: “We also want them to at least be prosecuted federally to the extent possible, because they need to be held accountable.”
Judicial Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Said in his opening statement Wednesday that the report painted “a shocking picture of the FBI’s dereliction of duty and blatant incompetence.”
“The FBI’s handling of the Nassar case is a stain on the desk,” Durbin said.
In another opening statement, Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Described Nassar’s abuse as “heinous” and “hideous” and said it should never happen again.
“There is no doubt that Larry Nassar was a monster – a horrible predator,” Blumenthal said, adding that a Senate report on the investigation focused not only on these monsters but on their enablers, “the institutions that you lacked, schools like Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, coaches and coaches. They all looked the other way.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said lawmakers will not be satisfied with “platitudes and vague promises of improved performance.”
“If this monster may have continued to harm these women and girls after its victims first surrendered to the FBI, how many other attackers have escaped justice?” Cornyn asked.
Prominent committee member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the children were “suffering needlessly” because several agents in several FBI offices “neglected to share” the allegations against Nassar with their counterparts in charge of the crime. law enforcement.
Grassley said he was working on legislation to fill a loophole in a sex tourism law that the Inspector General highlighted in his report.
“This loophole in the law has allowed Nassar to escape federal prosecution for assaulting children while traveling overseas, and it can never happen again,” he said.
In 2017, Nassar pleaded guilty to abusing 10 of the more than 265 women and girls who came forward to say they had been assaulted. He is serving up to 175 years in prison.