– Simone Biles testifies FBI turned a blind eye to reports of gymnast abuse

WASHINGTON – Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles told Congress through tears on Wednesday that the FBI and gymnastics officials had turned a blind eye to U.S. gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of her and hundreds of other women.

Biles told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “enough is enough” as she and three other American gymnasts spoke movingly about Nassar’s enduring toll of crimes.

Left-wing U.S. gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols at a Senate court hearing on September 15, 2021. Saul Loeb via Associated Press

The 2016 Olympic champion and five-time world champion – widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time – said she “can’t imagine a place where I would be less comfortable right now than to sit here. in front of you”. She has declared herself a survivor of sexual abuse.

“I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that allowed and perpetrated his abuse,” Biles said. She said USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee “knew I had been abused by their team’s official doctor long before I knew about their knowledge.”

Biles said a message needed to be sent: “If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be quick and severe. Enough is enough.”

The hearing is part of a congressional effort to hold the FBI accountable after several missteps in investigating the case, including delays that allowed Nassar, now in jail, to abuse other young gymnasts . An internal Justice Department investigation released in July found that the FBI made fundamental errors in the investigation and did not treat the matter “with the utmost seriousness” after USA Gymnastics first reported both the allegations at the FBI field office in Indianapolis in 2015. The FBI admitted that his own conduct was inexcusable. At least 40 girls and women said they were assaulted after the FBI learned of the problem.

McKayla Maroney, another gold medalist gymnast, told senators that one night, when she was 15, she found the doctor on her while she was naked – one of the many times she was abused. She said she thought she was going to die that night.

Maroney said the FBI “downplayed and ignored” her after reporting Nassar and said the agency delayed the investigation because other gymnasts had been abused.

“I think for so long we’ve all wondered, just because someone else wasn’t fully validating us, that we doubted what happened to us,” Maroney said. “And I think that makes the healing process longer.”

Biles and Maroney were joined by Aly Raisman, another Olympic gold medalist, and gymnast Maggie Nichols. Raisman said it “disgusts me” that they are still seeking answers six years after the original allegations against Nassar were reported.

“We just can’t solve a problem that we don’t understand, and we can’t understand the problem unless and until we have all the facts,” Raisman said, noting the traumatic effect that l abuse has had on all of them.

“To be here today is to take everything I have,” she said. “My main concern is to hope that I have the energy to get out of here. I don’t think people realize how much this affects us.

Biles admitted in January 2018 that she was among hundreds of athletes who were abused by Nassar. She is the only witness to have participated in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – which took place this year after a year of delay due to the coronavirus pandemic – but withdrew from the team final to focus on her Mental Health. She returned to win a bronze medal on balance beam, but told the committee that the lingering trauma of her abuse at Nassar’s hands played a role in her decision to withdraw from several competitions.

Democratic and Republican senators have expressed disgust at the case and said they will continue to investigate. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin of Illinois said it was one of the most compelling and heartbreaking testimony he has ever heard.

“We have a job to do and we know it,” said Durbin.

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas said Congress must “demand real change and real accountability, and we will not be satisfied with platitudes and vague promises of improved performance.” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, called Nassar a “monster” and wondered how many other attackers had escaped justice, given that even world-class athletes were ignored in this case.

FBI Director Christopher Wray and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who led the July report, will testify in a second panel after the gymnasts.

Horowitz’s investigation was spurred by allegations that the FBI failed to promptly address the 2015 complaints against Nassar. USA Gymnastics had conducted its own internal investigation and the organization’s president at the time, Stephen Penny, reported the allegations to the FBI field office in Indianapolis. But it was months before the office opened a formal investigation.

The Inspector General’s office found that “despite the extraordinarily serious nature” of the allegations against Nassar, FBI officials in Indianapolis did not respond with “the utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and required.” .

When responding, according to the report, FBI officials made “many fundamental mistakes” and violated office policies. Among the missteps was the failure of any investigative activity for up to more than a month after a meeting with USA Gymnastics.

The surveillance investigation also found that when the FBI’s Indianapolis field office handling of the case came under scrutiny, officials took no responsibility for the missteps and provided incomplete and inaccurate information to internal FBI investigations to give the impression that they had been diligent in their investigation.

The FBI berated its own employees who failed to act in the case and said that “should not have happened.”

The report also detailed that while the FBI was investigating Nassar’s allegations, the head of the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis, W. Jay Abbott, was talking to Penny about finding a job with the Olympic Committee. He applied for the job but didn’t get it and later retired from the FBI, according to the report.

Nassar was ultimately charged in 2016 with federal child pornography offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan.

He is now serving decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women say he sexually assaulted them under the guise of medical treatment while working for USA Gymnastics, based in the state of Michigan and the United States. Indiana, which trains Olympians.

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