USA Gymnast Simone Biles gave an emotional testimony on Wednesday during the Senate hearing of doctor Larry Nassar, who is accused of emotional and sexual assault of young female athletes on the team.
Dating back to the 2012 London Olympics, team doctor Larry Nassar was accused by many gymnasts and staff on the team for molesting the minors that he worked with disguised as medical treatment. Now being heard in a Senate hearing, many are also faulting USA Gymnastics for failing to act by preventing Nassar from being in contact with these young girls.
“I don’t want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured before, during and continuing to this day, in the wake of the Larry Nassar abuse,” Simone Biles said in her emotional testimony.
“I am also a survivor of sexual abuse,” she said, “and I believe without a doubt that the circumstances that led to my abuse and allowed it to continue, are directly the result of the fact that the organizations created by Congress to oversee and protect me as an athlete,” namely USA Gymnastics (USAG) and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), “failed to do their jobs.”
Simone’s voice cracked as she tried to get through her statement, saying that there was no place that she “would be less comfortable right now than sitting here…sharing these comments.”
When the FBI failed to properly investigate all of the claims against Larry Nassar, an investigation by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz released this past July found that he had abused nearly 70 young athletes. Eventually charged, Nassar was sent to federal court where he is serving the equivalency of a life sentence.
“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Simone Biles said. “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.”
Simone Biles also tied her recent struggle with mental health at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to trauma from her experiences with Larry Nassar. In Tokyo, Biles won the bronze medal in balance beam, but dropped out of all of her previous events.
Many of the female athletes who spoke today fought back tears as they laid blame against Nassar and the Olympic organizations to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
USA Gymnastic star McKayla Maroney, who competed alongside Biles, spoke at the Senate hearing as well, alleging similar concerns over the FBI and USA Gymnastics’ inability to act.
“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 said. “USA Gymnastics in concert with the FBI and the Olympic Committee were working together to conceal that Larry Nassar was a predator.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray offered the young athletes an apology during his testimony, but did not say how they could ensure these actions never occur again. “We’re never going to be perfect,” he said, but, “as long as I’m FBI director, I’m committed to doing everything in my power to make sure they never happen again.”
When asked what went wrong when investigating Larry Nassar, Wray responded saying, “I don’t have a good explanation.”
Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Maggie Nichols, all testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressing their hope that the FBI is held accountable for not taking action.
“The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us,” Simone Biles testified. “The impacts of this man’s abuse are not ever over or forgotten.”