WASHINGTON — Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, considered one of the world’s greatest gymnasts, broke down in tears Wednesday as she shared her story of being sexually abused by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Biles, who has won 25 world championship medals and seven Olympic medals for Team USA, said in her opening statement that she believes the abuse happened because organizations created by Congress to protect her as an athlete — USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee — “failed to do their jobs.”
“I don't want another young gymnast, or Olympic athlete, or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured before, during and continuing to this day in the wake of the Larry Nassar abuse,” said Biles, her voice choking with emotion.
Her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday comes after a Justice Department inspector general report released in July detailed the FBI’s mishandling of the case against Nassar. The report found that even though gymnasts first reported the sexual assault allegations to the FBI in 2015, he continued to treat gymnasts at Michigan State University, a high school and a gymnastics club until September 2016.
Biles said that after reading the report, she felt the FBI “turned a blind eye to us.”
“We suffered and continue to suffer because no one at FBI, USAG or the USOPC did what was necessary to protect us,” she said. “We have been failed, and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.”
The hearing Wednesday also included testimony from decorated gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, who described their abuse in at times graphic detail and called for the institutions and people who should have protected them to be held accountable.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was not leading the agency during the original investigation, and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz also testified before the committee. Wray said the FBI would be considering recommendations made by Horowitz's report, such as mandatory training. He also confirmed the FBI agent accused of failing to investigate the allegations was recently fired.
Maroney, 25, who is now retired from the sport, repeated in detail what she first told the FBI during a three-hour conversation in summer 2015.
“The first thing Larry Nasser ever said to me was to change into shorts with no underwear because that would make it easier for him to work on me, and within minutes, he had his fingers in my vagina,” Maroney told lawmakers. “The FBI then immediately asked, ‘Did he insert his fingers into your rectum?’ I said, ‘No, he never did.’ They asked if he used gloves. I said, ‘No, he never did.’ They asked if this treatment ever helped me. I said, ‘No, it never did.’ This treatment was 100 percent abuse and never gave me any relief.”
Maroney said that on a trip to Tokyo, Nassar gave her a sleeping pill for the plane ride so he could “work on me later that night.”
“That evening, I was naked, completely alone, with him on top of me, molesting me for hours. I told [the FBI] I thought I was going to die that night because there was no way that he would let me go. But he did,” said Maroney, who went on to detail many other instances when Nassar molested her.
Maroney alleged that the FBI not only “minimized” her allegations, but also silenced her and falsified her report.
Raisman, who is also retired from gymnastics and competed with Maroney at the 2012 Olympics in London, said it took the FBI 14 months to interview her about allegations against Nassar despite many prior requests. Raisman said the FBI, USAG and USOPC “quietly allowed Nassar to slip out the side door” and continue his work, finding more than 100 new victims to molest.
“It was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter,” said Raisman, who added that the FBI also made her feel like her abuse “didn’t count and it wasn’t a big deal.”
In 2017, Nassar pleaded guilty to abusing 10 of the more than 265 women and girls who have come forward to say they were molested. He is serving up to 175 years in prison.
Asked by lawmakers what type of accountability the gymnasts would like to see, Raisman said it’s important to look at any connections between the FBI and USAG and USOCP through an independent investigation into allegations going back decades.
“Nobody should be off limits. Nothing should be off limits,” she said. “I personally would like to see all three organizations completely investigated.”
Biles added, "We also want to see them at least be federally prosecuted to the fullest extent because they need to be held accountable."
Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in his opening statement that the report painted “a shocking picture of FBI dereliction of duty and gross incompetence.”
“The FBI’s handling of the Nassar case is a stain on the bureau,” Durbin said.
Wray appeared on a second panel with the inspector general and apologized for the FBI's failure to investigate the gymnasts' claims in 2015.
"That is inexcusable. That never should have happened, and we're doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again," Wray said. "I'd like to make a promise to the women who appeared here today and to all survivors of abuse. I am not interested in simply addressing this wrong and moving on. It's my commitment to you that I and my entire senior leadership team are going to make damn sure everybody at the FBI remembers what happened here in heartbreaking detail."
In another opening statement, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., described Nassar’s abuse as “heinous” and “hideous” and emphasized that it should never happen again.
“There’s no question Larry Nassar was a monster — a horrific predator,” Blumenthal said, adding that a Senate report about the investigation focused not only on such monsters, but also their enablers, "the institutions that failed you, the schools like Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, the coaches and trainers. They all looked the other way.”
Blumenthal later told Wray, "If I were in your shoes, I would be walking across the street to the attorney general of the United States, and I would be saying, 'You need to prosecute.' Why aren't you doing that?"
Wray replied that he would not disclose discussions he has had with Attorney General Merrick Garland and suggested that he could only go so far as FBI director in pushing the Department of Justice to prosecute.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said lawmakers will not be satisfied by “platitudes and vague promises about improved performance.”
“If this monster was able to continue harming these women and girls after his victims first went to the FBI, how many other abusers have escaped justice?” Cornyn asked.
The committee’s ranking member, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said children “suffered needlessly” because multiple agents in multiple FBI offices “neglected to share” allegations against Nassar with their law enforcement counterparts.
Grassley said he is working on legislation to close a loophole in a sex tourism statute that the inspector general highlighted in his report.
“This gap in the law allowed Nassar to evade federal prosecution for assaulting children while traveling abroad, and that can never happen again,” he said.