USA TODAY International Edition
Gymnasts blast FBI failure to stop abuse
‘ We suffered and continue to suffer,’ Simone Biles testifies
Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles through tears blamed the FBI, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee at a Senate panel Wednesday for allowing disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar to abuse dozens of women and children.
“USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge,” Biles told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“We suffered and continue to suffer, because no one at the FBI, USAG or the USOPC did what was necessary to protect us,” Biles said. “We have been failed.”
Fellow elite gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the FBI’s failures to investigate 2015 sexual abuse allegations against Nassar.
All four gymnasts said they were victims of Nassar’s abuse, with Nichols being the first athlete to bring a sexual abuse complaint about him to top officials at USA Gymnastics.
During her testimony, Maroney slammed the FBI for falsifying her claims of abuse against Nassar.
“After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report
my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney said.
“What is the point of reporting abuse, if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in the drawer?” Maroney asked.
Raisman offered blunt words on the failures of the agencies when she spoke.
“It was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter,” Raisman said.
Nichols, like her fellow gymnasts, stressed that the lawmakers should hold accountable everyone involved in the failures and cover- up of Nassar’s abuse.
“For many hundreds of survivors of Larry Nassar, this hearing is one of our last opportunities to get justice,” Nichols said. “We ask that you do what is in your power to ensure those that engaged in wrongdoing are held accountable under the law.”
The Department of Justice inspector general released a stinging 119- page report in July that found Indianapolis FBI officials made false statements, failed to respond for months leading to more than 100 other gymnasts being sexually abused and exhibited “extremely poor judgment” in the handling of the allegations against Nassar.
The report also said the FBI’s Indianapolis field office failed to respond “with the utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and required.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D- Ill., called the FBI’s handling of the case “a stain on the bureau,” while ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R- Iowa, called for more accountability into the FBI’s actions.
“If there’s one thing the inspector general’s report illustrates it is this: that we need to make sure the bureau is more effective and held more accountable,” Grassley said.
FBI Director Chris Wray apologized to the four athletes for the agency’s failures and called the inactions of its employees “totally unacceptable.”
“I’m deeply and profoundly sorry to each and every one of you. I’m sorry for what you and your families have been through. I’m sorry, that so many different people, let you down over and over again,” Wray said.
“And I’m especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015, and failed.”
Following the report, an unnamed supervisory 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 dismissed, Wray confirmed during the hearing.
After initial allegations of abuse were brought to light by former USA Gymnastics President Stephen D. Penny Jr. in July 2015, the report found the FBI field office in Indianapolis “conducted limited follow- up.”
The field office also failed to alert the proper authorities, the DOJ says.
The IG report specifically singled out former FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott for lying about the field office’s handling of the Nassar allegations and for violating policy when he communicated with Penny Jr. about a potential job opportunity with the U. S. Olympic Committee.
Abbott retired from the agency in 2018.
As the investigation languished, Nassar continued to work with gymnasts for more than a year. The report said that “according to civil court documents, 70 or more young athletes were allegedly sexually abused under the guise of medical treatment” during that time. An attorney for Nassar’s victims alleges he abused at least 120 more women and children.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz said that the failures of the FBI employees were uncovered because of the athletes who spoke up.
“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 strength in coming forward and speaking to us.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the athletes who testified “courageous” and “brave” at a briefing Wednesday.
“The Department of Justice has said that the FBI is promptly taking the steps outlined in the report to ensure that this can never happen again, which certainly the President supports that,” she said.
Nassar’s sexual abuse was publicly exposed in a September 2016 investigation by the Indianapolis Star, part of the USA TODAY Network. Nassar pleaded guilty to federal and state charges and was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.
In August, USA Gymnastics reached an agreement on a proposed $ 425 million settlement with more than 500 women who said they were sexually abused by Nassar, their coach or someone else affiliated with the sport.
“After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said.”
McKayla Maroney gymnast