This week, America’s best gymnasts testified before a Senate Judiciary Hearing. The Olympians held the FBI accountable for mishandling their sexual abuse allegations.
Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Alexandra “Aly” Raisman recounted their abuse at the hands of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
The bravery of these women… Also Imagine Simone Biles was criticised by certain mediocre men for prioritising her mental health at the Olympics… when THIS is what she had endured and battles to this day. She’s won 25 championship medals and 7 Olympic medals with this trauma. https://t.co/OwO2eQcnKJ
— Nathalie Emmanuel (@missnemmanuel) September 16, 2021
The gymnastics industry’s history of child abuse gained more exposure with an Indianapolis Star investigation in 2016.
The piece uncovered multiple examples where a coach preyed on young female athletes for seven years after USA Gymnastics dismissed the first of four warnings about him.
Two former USA Gymnastics officials admitted under oath in a 2013 lawsuit that the organization routinely dismissed sexual abuse allegations as hearsay unless they came directly from a victim or victim’s parent. The lawsuit was filed by one of that coach’s victims.
In the months that followed the Indianapolis Star piece, over 140 women, including Raisman, Maroney, and Biles, shared accounts of abuse or filed lawsuits against Nassar or institutions that enabled him.
The Olympians delivered chilling testimonies detailing the atrocities committed against them by Nassar and the FBI’s apparent ambivalence.
Simone Biles fought through tears to tell her truth, blaming Nassar individually but “an entire system” collectively “that allowed his abuse.”
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT – ‘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,’ Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney told U.S. lawmakers https://t.co/J14eAYuVes pic.twitter.com/i1R9Ct0VJl
— Reuters (@Reuters) September 15, 2021
In addition, Biles also held USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee responsible.
“The scars of this horrific abuse continue. The impact of this man’s abuse will never be over.”
McKayla Maroney left the room speechless when she graphically described Nassar’s abusive actions.
“(Nassar) turned out to be more of a pedophile than he was a doctor,” said Maroney.
Maroney’s details of her FBI interactions are chilling in their apathy. Her recollection of a 2015 phone conversation with the FBI where she told “all of my molestations in extreme detail,” was virtually dismissed.
McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles exit after testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
So much respect for these women. The strength and bravery they showed today to hold people accountable and to make sure it never happens to anyone again. pic.twitter.com/9tp5ybXNJP
— Jason Donner (@jason_donner) September 15, 2021
Sitting on her bedroom floor, Maroney detailed describing instances of abuse by Nassar, “I cried, and there was just silence” on the other end of the phone from the FBI agent.
The abuses on Maroney included an incident right before winning the team gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012, among many others. Maroney revealed a drugging while traveling on international flights and waking up in hotel rooms with Nassar on top of her.
“I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing,” Maroney said.
A Failure At Every Level
Advocates for the gymnasts attest that Nassar abused as many as 120 athletes after the FBI first heard about the charges.
The point of the hearing was to go straight to the government to explain the travesty of justice. However, the Justice Department hasn’t brought charges against the former FBI agents overseeing the cases.
“I’m anxious. I’m triggered. I’m drained. It’s heartbreaking even just to listen back to my teammates and my very close friends’ testimonies.”
Aly Raisman joins us on the heels of her Capitol Hill testimony about the FBI’s mishandling of Larry Nassar’s abuse investigation. pic.twitter.com/Q2CsMfj32E
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) September 16, 2021
There were some repercussions for the Bureau that occurred over the last two weeks. The FBI fired Special Agent Michael Langeman. In addition, his supervisor, Jay Abbott, had previously resigned.
“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 during the hearing.
“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?”
A Travesty Of Justice
The allegations into Nassar first came to the FBI in July 2015. A scathing Justice Department inspector general report detailed several protocol violations.
Released in July, the information exposed how months of delays allowed Nassar to roam free. The federal investigation stalled. However, Nassar kept abusing victims.
According to the report, FBI officials “failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required.”
“(The FBI) made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and violated multiple FBI policies.”
However, the courage it took for the athletes to come forward is remarkable. Describing the abuse and holding a government agency and system accountable is legendary. These Olympians have displayed of strength rarely seen at the highest level of sports.