Gymnasts Slam FBI for Failing to Protect Them From Sexual Abuse

“The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us,” Simone Biles testified to Congress.
September 15, 2021, 3:40pm
US Olympic gymnasts (L-R) Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols testify during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI handling of the Larry Nassar investigation of sexual abuse of Olympic gymnast
US Olympic gymnasts (L-R) Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols testify during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI handling of the Larry Nassar investigation of sexual abuse of Olympic gymnasts on September 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images)

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Four of the top gymnasts in the United States told Congress that the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee had failed them, for years, in a Senate hearing Wednesday—and they want answers and accountability.

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The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing centered on a Justice Department report, released this summer, that found the FBI had botched its investigation into Larry Nassar, a once-celebrated doctor who has since been jailed and accused of abusing hundreds of gymnasts while pretending he was providing medical treatment. The four gymnasts who testified Wednesday—Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman—have all said that they were abused by Nassar.

“They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing,” Maroney, an Olympic gold medalist, told the senators of the FBI. “If they’re not going to protect me, I want to know: Who are they trying to protect?”

Maroney, who is not named in the report, spoke with a FBI agent about her experience with Nassar, but that agent didn’t properly follow up, according to the report. More than a year after speaking with Maroney, the agent drafted a summary of her interview that included statements she did not make, per the report. 

The FBI’s inaction, Maroney said, was beyond devastating. She recalled sitting on her bedroom floor and spending nearly three hours telling the agent about the abuse she endured. After recounting one particularly horrific memory, she began to cry; the agent, she said, only asked her, “Is that all?”

“By not taking immediate action from my report, they allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year and this inaction directly allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue,” Maroney said. “I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing, because my abuse was enough.”

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“Despite the extraordinarily serious nature of the allegations and the possibility that Nassar’s conduct could be continuing,” the Justice Department report concluded, “senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis Field Office failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required, made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and violated multiple FBI policies.” 

The report also found that the special agent who led the Indianapolis field office had lied to the Justice Department inspector general’s office, “in an effort to minimize or excuse his errors.”

However, the inspector general’s office declined to prosecute anyone in the FBI over the handling of the Nassar case—a decision that came under fire in the Wednesday hearing. Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, called on the Justice Department to pursue “criminal prosecution where appropriate.”

In her statement, Biles echoed a question that’s been raised by Rachel Denhollander, who spoke out publicly against Nassar in 2016: How much is a little girl worth?

“The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us,” said Biles, who suggested that her experience with Nassar, USA Gymnastics, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee had contributed to her mental health at the Tokyo Olympics, where she largely stepped back from competing.

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At one point, Biles was clearly holding back tears.

“I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” she said. “USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew that I was abused by the Olympic team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge.”

Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, and Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, also testified Wednesday in a panel after the gymnasts.

Wray said that the FBI agent who interviewed Maroney “no longer works for the FBI in any capacity,” but when asked if the agent faced prosecution, Wray said no.

Nassar was sentenced in 2018 after pleading guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct. More than 150 young women spoke at his sentencing hearing, delivering wrenching testimony about the lingering effects of Nassar’s abuse and the mass failure to act to stop him.