WASHINGTON: Olympic gymnast Simone Biles held back tears on Wednesday, as she told lawmakers how the FBI and U.S. gymnastic and Olympic officials failed to stop the sexual abuse that she and hundreds of other athletes suffered from former doctor Larry Nassar. “To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” she said before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee alongside fellow gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols. Biles added that USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee failed to act while the FBI “turned a blind eye.” The emotional hearing painted a damning picture of FBI, which botched the Nassar investigation so badly that he was able to continue abusing more victims for over a year before he was finally arrested. FBI Director Chris Wray made no excuses and said the bureau had fired one of the agents who had falsified the details of Maroney’s 2015 interview about the abuse. “On no planet is what happened in this case acceptable,” he said, later adding that the conduct of the agents who botched the case “was beyond the pale.” With anger in her voice, Maroney recalled how in 2015 she spent three hours on the phone telling the FBI the details of her story that her own mother had not even heard, including accounts of sexual abuse she endured during the Olympic games gn London by Nassar, whom she described as “more of a pedophile than he was a doctor.”
Nassar, who is also a former employee of Michigan State University, has been found guilty in three separate cases, with one of the prison sentences running up to 175 years. It was not until July of this year, however, that she said the Justice Department inspector general revealed in a scathing report what the FBI actually did with the information she provided. It failed to document it for a year and a half, and misrepresented what she told them about her experiences. “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,” Maroney said.
Wednesday’s hearing comes after the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz in July issued a scathing report which blasted the FBI for botching its investigation in a series of errors that allowed the abuse to continue for months. Several of the gymnasts said they were furious that the FBI failed to immediately interview them about the abuse after they had reported it. Once the FBI finally did contact them, they said the agents tried to downplay the severity of the abuse. The FBI’s investigation into Nassar started in July 2015, after USA Gymnastics President and CEO Stephen Penny reported the allegations to the FBI’s Indianapolis field office. That office, then led by Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott, did not formally open an investigation.