Four prominent female gymnasts testified on Wednesday at a Senate hearing regarding the FBI’s mishandling of sexual abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
The Justice Department in a recent report found that the bureau failed to adequately investigate the early abuse charges against Nassar.
In a release the justice department said the bureau failed to respond to allegations of sexual abuse made against Nassar “with the urgency that the allegations required” and made “fundamental” errors investigating the allegations. The OIG further found that when the FBI’s handling of the case came under scrutiny, bureau officials did not take responsibility and instead “provided incomplete and inaccurate information to make it appear that they had been diligent in responding to the sexual abuse allegations.”
Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman, who are among the many victims sexually assaulted by Nassar, recounted Wednesday how the FBI mishandled their allegations.
Watch and read their powerful testimonies below.
Simone Biles: “The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us”
“To be perfectly honest, I can imagine no place that I would be less comfortable right now than sitting here in front of you sharing these comments,” four-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion Simone Biles said at the beginning of her testimony.
Biles tearfully said she blames Nassar and also “an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” including USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
“We suffered and continue to suffer because no one at FBI, USAG or the USOPC did what was necessary to protect us,” Biles said. “We have been failed and we deserve answers. “Nasser is where he belongs but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I’m convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.”
After reviewing the OIG’s report, Biles said “it truly feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us and went out of its way to help protect USAG and USOPC.”
“A message needs to be sent: If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough.”
“The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us,” Biles continued. “As the lone competitor in the recent Tokyo Games who is a survivor of this horror, I can assure you that the impacts of this man’s abuse are not ever over or forgotten. The announcement in the Spring of 2020 that the Tokyo Games were to be postponed for a year meant that I’d be going to the gym, to training, to therapy, living daily among the reminders of this story for another 365 days. As I have stated in the past, one thing that helped me push each and every day was the goal of not allowing this crisis to be ignored.”
Biles ended her testimony with one final statement.
“I am a strong individual and I will persevere but I never should have been left alone to suffer the abuse of Larry Nasser and the only reason I did was because of the failures that lie at the heart of the abuse that you are now asked to investigate.”
McKayla Maroney: FBI made “entirely false claims about what I said”
In her testimony, McKayla Moroney, a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic gymnastics team in 2012, said Nassar “turned out to be more of a pedophile than he was a doctor.”
She said the FBI falsified her statement, adding that she believes agents involved should be indicted.
“What I’m trying to bring to your attention today is something incredibly disturbing and illegal,” Maroney continued. “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.”
Upon reading the OIG report, Maroney said she was shocked and deeply disappointed at the narrative the bureau “chose to fabricate.”
“They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others,” Maroney said.
Flinching, Maroney recalled sitting on her bedroom floor in 2015 and speaking with the FBI over the phone. During the three hour call, Maroney said she answered all of their questions honestly and clearly and disclosed all of the “molestations” she had endured by Nasser “in extreme detail.”
“I hadn’t even told my own mother about these facts but I thought that as uncomfortable and as hard as it was to tell my story, I was going to make a difference and hopefully protect others from the same abuse,” Maroney said.
Maroney said she first met Nassar at the Karolyi Ranch, a sprawling 1,687-acre property north of Houston that was once the summer training site for female Olympic gymnasts.
Maroney said Nassar began abusing her within minutes of her first session with him.
She said that after describing multiple instances of abuse to the FBI, including an assault that occurred before winning a team gold medal at the London Olympics, she broke down and began crying over the phone.
She recalled how, after a moment of silence, an agent over the phone asked “Is that all?”
“Those words in of themselves were one of the worst moments of the entire process for me,” Maroney said. “To have my abuse be minimized and disregarded by the people who were supposed to protect me just to feel like my abuse was not enough. But the truth is my abuse was enough and they wanted to cover it up.”
“What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?” Maroney said angrily.
“I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing,” Moroney said. “My abuse was enough and we deserve justice.”
Maggie Nichols: The FBI “chose not to do their jobs”
Though she did not speak last, Maggie Nichols’ testimony best summarized the gymnasts collective criticism regarding the FBI’s handling of the Nassar investigation.
“An important question remains, perhaps the most important question -- Why?,” Nichols said. “Why would the FBI agents lie to OIG investigators? Why would the FBI not properly document evidence that was received? Why would the FBI agent be interested is USAG presidency?”
“These questions remain unanswered and the survivors of Larry Nassar have a right to know why their wellbeing was placed in jeopardy by these individuals who chose not to do their jobs,” Nichols added. “To date no one from the FBI, the USOPC or the USAG has faced federal charges other than Larry Nassar. For many hundreds of survivors of Larry Nassar, this hearing is one of last opportunities to get justice. We ask that you do what is in your power to ensure that those who engaged in wrongdoing are held accountable under the law.”
Aly Raisman: “It disgusts me that we’re still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability”
Aly Raisman, who won gold medals alongside Biles and Maroney in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams, also delivered testimony Wednesday.
Raisman told the senators it disgusted her that “we’re still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability” more than six years after allegations against Nassar were first reported.
“Given our abusers unfettered access to children, stopping him should have been a priority,” Raisman said, adding that it took the FBI 14 months to contact her despite her many requests to be interviewed.
Raisman recounted how Steve Penny, the former USA Gymnastics CEO, arranged with the FBI to conduct Raisman’s interview at the Olympic Training Center where she was under observation by USAG and the USOPC.
“On the day of my interview, Steve Penny flew to the Olympic Training Center and he made sure I was aware he was there,” Raisman said.
Raisman said she felt pressured by the FBI to consent to Nassar’s plea deal and that the agent diminished the significance of her abuse and made her feel her criminal case wasn’t worth pursuing.