US gymnasts savage FBI over mishandling of Larry Nassar complaints

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Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols, pictured here at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

WARNING – DISTRESSING CONTENT: A number of high-profile American gymnasts have blasted the FBI and US sporting officials for failing to act promptly on complaints about Larry Nassar, the former team doctor convicted of serial sexual abuse.

In powerful Senate testimony on Wednesday, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols said they were let down by the FBI, the leadership of USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).

Nassar was sentenced to life in prison in 2018 after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting women and girls while working as a team doctor at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University (MSU).

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USA Gymnastics reported the 58-year-old to the FBI in July 2015, but he continued to work at MSU and sexually abused at least 70 more women until a newspaper exposed him in September 2016.

"We have been failed and we deserve answers," said Biles, a seven-time Olympic medalist and the most decorated gymnast in world championships history.

"To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar but I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.

"We suffered and continue to suffer because no one at the FBI, USAG or USOPC did what was necessary to protect us."

Biles had to halt her testimony at several points to compose herself and wipe away tears.

McKayla Maroney was 'naked, molested for hours'

Maroney, who won a team gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, said she reported the abuse by Nassar in a three-hour telephone interview with an FBI agent in 2015 but it was "minimised and disregarded."

"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 testified.

"They allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year. They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing.

“I told him (the FBI officer) that the first thing Larry Nassar ever said to me was to change into shorts with no underwear because that would make it easier for him to work on me.

“I then told the FBI about Tokyo. The day he gave me a sleeping pill for the plane ride to then 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 them I thought I was going to die that night. Because there was no way that he would let me go. But he did.

“I told them I walked the halls of Tokyo hotel at 2am. At only 15-years-old, I began crying at the memory over the phone, and there was just dead silence. I was so shocked at the agent’s silence and disregard for my trauma. After that minute of silence he asked, ‘Is that all?’

“Those words in itself was one of the worst moments of this entire process for me, to have my abuse be minimised 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.”

Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols, pictured here at the Senate Inquiry.
Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Hundreds of allegations of abuse against Larry Nassar

Hundreds of women - including Olympians and collegiate athletes - have accused Nassar of sexually abusing them over the course of his more than two-decade career in sports medicine.

The Justice Department's Inspector General published a scathing report in July about the mishandling of the accusations against Nassar by the FBI's field office in Indianapolis, where USA Gymnastics has its headquarters. 

The report said FBI agents failed to take the allegations seriously and investigate them right away.

Biles, Maroney, Raisman and Nichols were invited to testify before the Senate committee under oath about the "FBI's dereliction of duty in the Nassar case."

Raisman, former captain of the Olympic gold medal-winning teams in 2012 and 2016, said stopping Nassar's abuse should have been a priority for the FBI but it took over 14 months for the bureau to contact her.

Raisman said the delay was "like serving innocent children up to a paedophile on a silver platter."

Nichols, who won a gold medal at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, said she reported Nassar's abuse to USA Gymnastics leadership in 2015.

"I am haunted by the fact that even after I reported my abuse so many women and girls had to suffer at the hands of Larry Nassar," she said.

"USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee have all betrayed me and those who were abused by Larry Nassar."

Larry Nassar, pictured here at Ingham County Circuit Court in 2017.
Larry Nassar at Ingham County Circuit Court in 2017. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

FBI Director apologises for mishandling investigation

FBI Director Christopher Wray also testified before the Senate panel but in a separate session.

Wray apologised to the gymnasts and others abused by Nassar for the FBI's mishandling of the investigation.

"In no planet is what happened in this case acceptable," he said.

"I'm sorry so many people let you down over and over again," Wray said.

"And I am especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed. That is inexcusable."

Wray said the senior agent in Indianapolis who failed to properly investigate Nassar had retired while another agent had been fired.

with agencies

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, call 1800 RESPECT (737 732) for the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service; Sexual Assault Support Services on 6231 1811 or after hours 6231 1817; Family Violence Crisis and Support Service on 1800 608 122 and Bravehearts – Sexual Assault Support for Children on 1800 BRAVE 1.

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