Simone Biles gave emotional testimony Tuesday at a U.S. Senate hearing on the Larry Nassar abuse scandal, an episode that shook the gymnastics world and involved some of America’s most famous young athletes.
Nassar, a former US gymnastics team doctor, is serving a life sentence after abusing dozens of athletes in his care. Biles and other Olympic gold medalists such as Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney are among the survivors of the abuse. On Tuesday, they appeared in front of a Senate committee to give scorching testimony at the hearing on the failed 2015 FBI investigation into the case.
Biles began his testimony with a quote from Nelson Mandela that says: “There can be no sharper revelation of the soul of a society than the way it treats its children.” She had to pause briefly after feeling overwhelmed with emotion, before continuing.
“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that allowed and perpetrated his abuse,” he said. “USA Gymnastics and the United States, the Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew that the official doctor of their team abused me long before I realized his knowledge.”
The FBI is accused of failing to properly investigate allegations that Nassar was abusing the athletes in his care. “The children suffered unnecessarily because multiple agents in various FBI offices refused to share Nassar’s allegations with their law enforcement counterparts in state and local agencies,” said Republican Senator Chuck Grassley in prepared remarks before the Tuesday hearing.
Biles, considered the greatest gymnast of all time, withdrew from various events at this summer’s Olympics to maintain her sanity. She acknowledged Tuesday that the legacy of Nassar’s abuse had affected her.
“The scars of this horrible abuse continue to live on with all of us… I worked incredibly hard to make sure that my presence could help maintain a connection between the failures. [around the Nassar case] and the competition at Tokyo 2020, ”he said.
“That has proven to be an exceptionally difficult burden for me to carry, particularly when I am required to travel to Tokyo without the support of anyone in my family. I am a strong person and I will persevere, but I should never have been left alone to be abused by Larry Nassar. And the only reason I did it was because of the flaws that lie at the heart of the abuse that you are now being asked to investigate. “
The 24-year-old added that she fears similar cases will arise if the proper measures are not taken. “Nassar is where he belongs. Those who allowed it deserve to be held accountable. If not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen in other Olympic sports, ”she said.
Meanwhile, Maroney and Raisman described how the FBI had not properly investigated their complaints against Nassar.
“After telling my entire abuse story to the FBI in the summer of 2015, the FBI not only failed to report my abuse, but when they finally documented my report 17 months later, they made completely false claims about what I said.” Maroney testified. “They chose to manufacture. They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not just me, but many others. “
An investigation by the US Department of Justice. found that Nassar was able to abuse up to 70 athletes between the time the FBI first learned of the allegations and September 2016 when he was fired by his main employer, Michigan State University, after a police report was filed. against him.
Raisman said it was not just the FBI that had failed him. “My reports of abuse weren’t just buried by [USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee]But they were also mistreated by federal law enforcement officers who failed to fulfill their most basic duties. “
Raisman described how Nassar’s abuse continues to affect her. “I don’t think people realize how much PTSD affects us, how much PTSD affects us, how much trauma affects us … There are times when I feel like I forget what I’m saying. I feel like my mind is not working. I feel like I don’t have any energy. I’m 27 years old and my 80-year-old grandfather has more energy than I do, ”he said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray appeared at the hearing and admitted that his agency had failed survivors of Nassar’s abuse. “I want to be very clear: the actions and inaction of the FBI employees detailed in this report are totally unacceptable,” he said.
W Jay Abbott, the FBI agent in charge of Nassar’s initial investigation, retired in 2018 and was not disciplined for his handling of the case. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Tuesday that Abbott had provided false information during the investigation.
“It worries me to see that an FBI agent who lied, broke the law, he knew I was breaking the law, and it’s okay, ”Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy said during the hearing, his voice rising with anger. “I understand the procedure, but it bothers me very much that the failures of the FBI field office in Indianapolis delayed the start of the investigation of Larry Nassar’s widespread sexual assaults on more than 100 victims. And everyone, I don’t care where they are on the political spectrum or anything else, they had to be smashed listening to the testimony of these victims this morning. “
USA Gymnastics has announced a plan to pay a $ 215 million (£ 164 million) settlement to athletes abused by Nassar. In February, Li Li Leung, executive director of USA Gymnastics, told CBS that the organization recognizes “how deeply we have broken the trust of our athletes and the community, and we are working hard to regain that trust.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism