Disgraced former U.S. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is currently serving up to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse and assaults upon hundreds of girls and women placed in his care. But as Simone Biles told Congress: “The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us.”
Biles was one of four U.S. gymnasts—including former Olympians Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, and former NCAA gymnast Maggie Nichols—who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, accusing the FBI of mishandling the case and failing to immediately act in response to allegations of misconduct by Nassar, therefore not bringing him to justice sooner.
“It was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter,” Raisman testified, according to the Washington Post.
As The Root reported Tuesday, “Biles was one of several athletes who expressed concerns about Nassar to USA Gymnastics officials in June 2015. Allegedly, the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office ignored the concerns and intentionally left Biles’ name out of the investigations.” As we previously reported, this was despite the champion gymnast also self-identifying as a survivor in a 2018 public statement which read in part:
“I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar...I’ve felt a bit broken and the more I try to shut off the voice in my head the louder it screams. I am not afraid to tell my story anymore.”
Nevertheless, the world’s most decorated gymnast in history was deeply disheartened to initially find that despite telling her story, she was initially omitted from the investigation, an issue she first brought attention to in 2019.
Testifying before Congress on Wednesday while reportedly fighting back tears, Biles got her chance to take those who ignored her and others’ claims to task.
“We have been failed, and we deserve answers,” she said (h/t WaPo). “It truly feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us.”
Biles also spoke on the residual effects of the trauma exacted by both Nassar and seemingly complicit USA Gymnastics and U.S. Olympics committees that allowed him to continue working with gymnasts even after she and others had expressed their discomfort with him. In fact, Biles directly tied her mental health struggles during the recent Olympics in Tokyo to the triggering effects of Nassar’s abuse, explaining that she was now testifying “so that no little girl must endure” what she and so many others did.
For context on the extent of Nassar’s damage, WaPo reports:
More than a year after the allegations against Nassar were first brought to the FBI in 2015, he was arrested and charged by state officials. In the interim, Nassar is estimated to have abused at least 70 more athletes, according to a devastating report issued in July by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Nassar’s victims say the figure is even higher, at 120.
“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,” Biles testified on Wednesday, WaPo reports. “To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.”
Maroney also offered horrifying testimony of at several sexual assaults by Nassar, one of which occured in Japan when she was only 15. She further testified that Nassar also molested her ahead of her Olympic gold medal win in London in 2012. But like Biles, Maroney’s accusations were initially ignored.
“I told the FBI all of this, and they chose to falsify my report, and to not only minimize my abuse but silence me yet again,” she told Congress. “It took them 14 months to report anything, when Larry Nassar—in my opinion—should have been in jail that day.”
Much of the testimony directly implicated former FBI agent Michael Langeman, who was among the initial investigators of the allegations and has since been fired for his handling (or lack thereof) of what was revealed to be an insidious and prolonged history of predation by Nassar. Testifying after the gymnasts, current FBI Director Christopher A. Wray publicly apologized for what Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) referred to as “a shocking picture of FBI dereliction of duty and gross incompetence.”
“I want to begin by saying to the brave women testifying this morning...I am deeply and profoundly sorry to each and every one of you,” said Wray, who further promised to ensure the FBI remember the pain caused by its negligence “in heartbreaking detail,” WaPo reports. “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, and that is inexcusable. It never should have happened, and we’re doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.”
An apology will likely not be enough for the legions of women and girls abused by Nassar, and certainly wasn’t enough for Biles and her fellow gymnasts. “After the hearing, the gymnasts were asked what else they would like to see happen,” WaPo reports, “and for most of them the answer was simple: Indictments of the FBI agents and anyone else who enabled Nassar’s abuse.”