Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles blamed the FBI, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee during a Senate panel on Wednesday for allowing Larry Nassar, former doctor of the disgraced US gymnastics team , abuse dozens of women and children.
“USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew I had been mistreated by their official team doctor long before I was made aware of their knowledge,” Biles told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“We have suffered and continue to suffer because no one in the FBI, USAG or USOPC did what was necessary to protect us,” Biles said. “We failed”.
Other elite gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the FBI’s failure to investigate allegations of sexual abuse against Nassar in 2015.
All four gymnasts said they were abused by Nassar, with Nichols being the first athlete to file a sexual abuse complaint about him with senior officials at USA Gymnastics.
During his testimony, Maroney criticized the FBI for falsifying its abuse allegations against Nassar.
“After telling my whole story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they finally documented my report 17 months later, they made completely false statements. on what I said, ”Maroney said. noted.
“What’s the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents take it upon themselves to bury this report in the drawer?” Maroney asked.
Raisman spoke direct words about agency failures when she spoke.
“It was like serving innocent children to a pedophile on a silver platter,” Raisman said.
Nichols, like his fellow gymnasts, stressed that lawmakers should hold accountable all those involved in the failures and cover up of Nassar’s abuse.
“For hundreds of Larry Nassar survivors, this hearing is one of our last opportunities for justice,” said Nichols. “We ask you to do what you can to ensure that those who engage in wrongdoing are held accountable under the law.”
The Justice Department Inspector General released a scathing 119-page report in July that found Indianapolis FBI officials made false statements, did not respond for months, resulting in complaints. sexual abuse of over 100 other gymnasts and demonstrated “extremely poor judgment” in handling the allegations against Nassar.
The report also states that the FBI field office in Indianapolis did not respond “with the utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and demanded.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Called the FBI’s handling of the case a “stain on the desk,” while rank member Senator Chuck Grassley, R -Iowa, called for more responsibility for the actions of the FBI.
“If there’s one thing the Inspector General’s report illustrates, it’s this: we need to make sure the office is more efficient and more accountable,” Grassley said.
FBI Director Chris Wray apologized to the four athletes for the agency’s failures and called his employees’ inaction “totally unacceptable.”
“I am deeply and deeply sorry for each of you. I am sorry for what you and your families have gone through. I am sorry that so many different people have let you down over and over again.” said Wray.
“And I’m especially sorry that there were people in the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster in 2015 and failed.”
As a result of the report, an anonymous surveillance special agent involved in the case was reassigned pending the completion of an internal FBI investigation. The agent, identified as Michael Langeman, has since been fired, Wray confirmed at the hearing.
“Failed FBI Survivors”:Massive systematic failures uncovered in DOJ’s Larry Nassar report
After the first allegations of abuse were brought to light by former USA Gymnastics president Stephen D. Penny Jr. in July 2015, the report found that the FBI field office in Indianapolis “had done limited follow-up.” .
The field office also did not alert the relevant authorities, according to the DOJ.
The IG report specifically named former FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott for lying about the Field Office’s handling of Nassar’s allegations and for violating policy when he contacted Penny. Jr. regarding a potential employment opportunity with the US Olympic Committee.
Abbott retired from the agency in 2018.
As the investigation dragged on, Nassar continued to work with gymnasts for over a year. The report states that “according to civil court documents, 70 or more young athletes were sexually assaulted under the guise of medical treatment” during this period. A lawyer for Nassar victims claims he abused at least 120 other women and children.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the failures of FBI employees were discovered because of the athletes speaking out.
“The OIG was able to investigate and identify these failures, only because of the courage of the athletes who spoke to our investigators,” said Horowitz. “What they did was extraordinarily difficult. And I want to thank them for their cooperation and their strength to come forward and speak to us.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the athletes who testified “brave” and “courageous” at a briefing on Wednesday.
“The Justice Department said the FBI was swiftly taking the steps outlined in the report to ensure this could never happen again, which the president certainly supports,” she said.
Nassar’s sexual abuse was publicly exposed in a September 2016 investigation by the Indianapolis Star, which is part of the USA TODAY Network. Nassar pleaded guilty to federal and state charges and was sentenced to over 100 years in prison.
Another failure of the FBI:Larry Nassar debacle is latest in a string of high-profile blackouts
In August, USA Gymnastics reached an agreement on a proposed $ 425 million settlement with more than 500 women who said they had been sexually assaulted by Nassar, their trainer, or someone else affiliated with the sport.
Contributors: Tim Evans and Elizabeth DePompei, star of Indianapolis; Kevin Johnson and Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY