U.S. gymnasts blast FBI before Senate committee looking into Larry Nassar case
9/15/2021 1:12:27 PM EST
Four elite American gymnasts, including Olympic gold medal winners Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman, told a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday that the FBI failed them when it came to investigating allegations of sexual abuse by former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar.
"Over the past few years it has become painfully clear how a survivor's healing is affected by the handling of their abuse, and it disgusts me that we are still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability over six years later," said Raisman, who said the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee didn't do what they needed to do to help Nassar's victims.
Nassar, who also treated athletes at Michigan State, received a sentence of up to 175 years in prison in 2018 after pleading guilty to sexual assault. More than 250 girls and women accused him of sexual abuse during the course of what was supposed to be medical treatment, and about 150 of them confronted him in court in 2017.
"It took over 14 months for the FBI to contact me despite my many requests to be interviewed by them," said Raisman, a two-time Olympian. "I felt pressure by the FBI to consent to Nassar's plea deal. The agent diminished the significance of my abuse and made me feel my criminal case wasn't worth pursuing."
The Senate committee called for the hearing after a critical report issued this summer by the Justice Department's office of the inspector general detailed a number of things the FBI did wrong in its handling of the case.
"As the details of Nassar's crimes emerged, there's been a consistent theme of neglect and inaction by those who are responsible for protecting the athletes," Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said in his opening remarks, adding, "The FBI's handling of a Nassar's case is a stain on the bureau."
Biles, the 2016 All-Around Olympic champion in Rio de Janeiro, said it's time for those who didn't take swift action against Nassar to face punishment.
"A message needs to be sent: If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough," she said.
Raisman's teammate on the 2012 Olympic team, Maroney, leveled harsh allegations against the FBI on Wednesday.
"Today, I ask you all to hear my voice. I ask you please do all that is in your power to ensure that these individuals are held responsible and accountable for ignoring my initial report, for lying about my initial report and for covering up for a child molester," she said.
And the fourth woman, Maggie Nichols, said those who didn't take swift action are responsible for more girls and women being abused by Nassar.
"In sacrificing my childhood for the chance to compete for the United States, I am haunted by the fact even after I reported my abuse so many women and girls had to suffer at the hands of Larry Nassar."
Nichols won gold medals on multiple apparatuses while a gymnast at Oklahoma, and she was part of the group that won the team competition at the 2015 World Championships.
--Field Level Media
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