15th September, 2021
Olympian Simone Biles blasted USA Gymnastics and the FBI in blunt, tearful testimony on Wednesday for standing by while Larry Nassar abused her and hundreds of other athletes.
“We have been failed and we deserve answers,” Biles told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
‘To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated that abuse,’ she said.
Biles demanded ‘answers’ and called for the people who let Nassar get away with the abuse for decades to be held ‘accountable’, saying she fears that the same thing could happen in the future.
‘I sit before you today to raise my voice so that no little girl must endure what I, the athletes at this table and the countless others needlessly suffered under Nassar’s guise of medical treatment – which we continue to endure to today,’ she said.
‘Nassar is where he belongs but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable.
‘If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.’
“It really feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us,” she said.
Simone Biles was one of four athletes, along with McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, who testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee as it probes the FBI’s mishandling of the investigation.
Maroney recalled how in 2015 she spent three hours on the phone telling the FBI the details of her story that her own mother had not even heard, including accounts of sexual abuse she endured during the Olympic games in London.
It was not until July of this year, however, that she said the Justice Department inspector general revealed in a scathing report what the FBI actually did with the information she provided: Failing to document it for a year and a half, and misrepresenting what she told them about her experiences.
“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, with anger in her voice.
Wednesday’s hearing comes after the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz in July issued a scathing report which blasted the FBI for botching its investigation in a series of errors that allowed the abuse to continue for months.
Horowitz will also testify on Wednesday as will FBI Director Chris Wray, who is expected to face sharp bipartisan questioning about why the agents who botched the probe were never prosecuted for their misconduct.
“It is not only that the FBI failed to do its job, systematically and repeatedly. It is also the cover-up – the cover-up that occurred when FBI agents made materially false statements and deceptive omissions,” Senator Richard Blumenthal said, adding that the Justice Department has declined to prosecute the agents.
“My hope is that the Department of Justice, which was invited today and has declined to appear, will match your courage by explaining why those lies by FBI agents did not lead to criminal prosecution,” he said.
The FBI’s investigation into Nassar started in July 2015, after USA Gymnastics President and CEO Stephen Penny reported the allegations to the FBI’s Indianapolis field office.
That office, then led by Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott, did not formally open an investigation.
The FBI only interviewed one witness months later, in September 2015, and failed to formally document that interview in an official report known as a “302” until February 2017 – well after the FBI had arrested Nassar on charges of possessing sexually explicit images of children in December 2016.
When the interview was finally documented in 2017 by an unnamed supervisory special agent, the report was filled with “materially false information and omitted material information,” Horowitz’s report determined.
Raisman, meanwhile, expressed frustrations that more has not been done to investigate USA Gymnastics or the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee for covering up Nassar’s abuse for years.
“Why did none of these organizations warn anyone? USAG and USOPC have a long history of enabling abuse by turning a blind eye. Both organizations knew of Nassar’s abuse, long before it became public,” she said.
“We have called for a fully independent, factual investigation for years now, because these women who sit before you now know firsthand these organizations and their public statements are not to be trusted.”
Nassar has been found guilty in three separate cases, with one of the prison sentences running up to 175 years.
Prosecutors have estimated he sexually assaulted hundreds of women and girls.