WASHINGTON — Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, considered one of the world’s greatest gymnasts, broke down in tears Wednesday as she shared her story as a survivor of sexual abuse from convicted 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 Nasser abuse,” said a visibly choked-up Biles, her voice breaking with emotion.
Her testimony comes after a Justice Department inspector general report released in July detailed the FBI’s mishandling of the case against Nassar.
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, [ USA Gymnastics] or the [United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee] did what was necessary to protect us,” she said. “We have been failed and we deserve answers. Nasser 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.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in his opening statement Wednesday 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.
In another opening statement, Sen. Richard Blumemthal, D-Conn., described Nassar’s abuse as “heinous” and “hideous” and said 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 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.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said that 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 that children “suffered needlessly” because multiple agents in multiple FBI offices “neglected to share” allegations against Nassar with their law enforcement counterparts.
Grassley said that 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
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.
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday heard testimony from Olympic gymnasts Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was not leading the agency during the original investigation, and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz are also expected to testify. Wray is expected to outline changes that have been put in place to ensure the agency conducts proper investigations on such sexual abuse allegations in the future.
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