Biles forces US to question system that tolerated Nassar’s abuse

By Beatriz Pascual Macias

Washington, Sep 15 (EFE).- Olympic champion Simone Biles on Wednesday publicly forced the United States to question the system that allowed Larry Nassar to use his position as the doctor for the national Olympic gymnastics team to sexually abuse her and hundreds of other young athletes for years.

Her voice breaking with emotion, Biles called for accountability from top officials with the USA Gymnastics federation, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the FBI for allowing Nasser to continue abusing gymnasts despite complaints that had been filed against him.

“I blame Larry Nasser, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse. USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge,” said Biles, the most decorated Olympic gymnast in history, before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe,” she added.

The Olympic champion also accused the FBI of “turned its back” on the gymnasts by having responded slowly and inadequately to the first accusations of sexual abuse leveled against Nassar, inaction that allowed him to continue abusing young athletes for months thereafter.

Biles was accompanied by three other gymnasts who suffered abuse at the hands of the former national team physician and who encouraged her by taking her hand or exchanging supportive looks.

One of them, McKayla Maroney, whom Nassar began abusing when she was 13, recounted an incident she suffered in 2015 in a Tokyo hotel room and during which she feared for her life.

That night, she said, she was “naked, completely alone with him on top of me, molesting me for hours,” adding that she told the FBI that she thought she was going to die that night because he would not let her leave, although ultimately he did.

“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,” Maroney said.

“What is the point of reporting abuse, if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in the drawer?” she went on to ask.

Reading her testimony from her smartphone, but with a firm voice and visibly indignant, Maroney said that Nasser even attacked her at the 2012 London Olympic Games before she won a gold medal.

Nassar’s abuse was ongoing and impacted the careers of gymnasts like Maggie Nichols, who was the first active athlete to denounce the abuses to the USA Gymnastics federation and who later was not selected for the US Olympic team.

“For many hundreds of survivors of Larry Nassar, this hearing is one of our last opportunities to get justice,” Nichols said, adding, “We ask that you do what is in your power to ensure those that engaged in wrongdoing are held accountable under the law.”

Aly Raisman, meanwhile, recounted the impact that the abuse had had on the lives of the athletes.

She said that she went from training at the maximum level for seven hours a day to having to sit in the shower to wash up because she didn’t have enough energy left to do so standing up.

The main aim of the Senate hearing at which the athletes testified is to clarify why the FBI office in Indianapolis – where USA Gymnastics has its headquarters – did not respond appropriately or adequately to complaints against Nassar.

An internal Department of Justice report last July revealed serious mistakes within the FBI that caused the investigation to stagnate for months.

A few hours before the Wednesday hearing, local media reported that the FBI had fired agent Michael Langeman, one of the officials tasked with supervising the Nassar investigation and who lied to the DOJ during the internal probe.

That investigation revealed that in 2015 while the gymnasts were complaining about the abuse, the head of the Indianapolis FBI office, Jay Abbott, now retired, was in communication with the then-president of USA Gymnastics, Steve Penny, about a job on the Olympic Committee, something that finally did not crystalize.

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