They’re known around the world for their gold-medal Olympic and World Gymnastics Championship wins, but on Wednesday a group of elite gymnasts spoke publicly about a title they never wanted to have: a sexual assault survivor.
Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman all testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about enduring sexual abuse at the hands of the former doctor for USA Gymnastics, Larry Nassar, and about the FBI’s failure in investigating the case.
“I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled his abuse,” said Biles in her emotional testimony.
Their testimony followed a scathing internal investigation report that found the FBI failed to properly investigate the case at many levels.
“During this period from July 2015, when the allegations were first reported to the FBI, to September 2016, Nassar continued to treat gymnasts at Michigan State University, a high school in Michigan, and a gymnastics club in Michigan,” said the Office of Inspector General report for the Department of Justice. “Ultimately the investigations determined that Nassar had engaged in sexual assaults of over 100 victims and possessed thousands of images of child pornography.”
Biles told lawmakers the FBI “turned a blind eye” to multiple reports of abuse.
Raisman said the FBI waited 14 months to contact her after she reported abuse.
“Nassar found more than 100 new victims to molest,” said Raisman. “It was like serving innocent children to a pedophile on a silver platter.”
Maroney said the FBI agents lied and failed to act on evidence of child abuse.
“They chose to falsify my report and not only minimize my abuse, but silence me yet again,” said Maroney.
Maroney shared a deeply personal and painful account of the abuse.
“I was naked, completely alone, with him on top of me molesting me for hours,” said Maroney. “They wanted to cover it up.”
The women who testified said it was widespread failure, from the law enforcement investigators to the athletics organizations.
“I will persevere, but I never should have been left alone to suffer abuse by Larry Nassar,” said Biles.
“An important question remains, perhaps the most important question, why?” said Nichols.
After the testimony from the gymnasts wrapped up, the head of the FBI faced the same Senate panel and condemned the actions of the FBI agents involved in the case.
“I don’t have a good explanation for you,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Wray told the Senate panel the lead FBI investigator has been fired and he said the FBI has since made policy and training changes.
“That is inexcusable,” said Wray. “It never should have happened and we’re doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.”
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