Simone Biles broke down in tears during Wednesday’s Senate hearing as she recounted the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and revealed how the FBI failed her and dozens of other victims by turning a ‘blind eye’ to the abuse.
The Olympic athlete, 24, called for the agents who failed to take action for months after the abuse was first reported to face federal prosecution as the sexual predator continued to prey on around 70 young victims.
‘To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated that abuse,’ she said.
Biles was joined by her fellow star athletes and Nassar victims McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman as they each gave damning testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee for its hearing into the FBI’s botched probe of Nassar’s sexual abuse.
The four women testified how they were made to feel the years of abuse they suffered ‘wasn’t a big deal’ when they reported it to FBI agents, who then failed to investigate their allegations.
These shocking failings enabled the predator to carry on his reign of abuse for more than a year after allegations were first reported.
All four women told the hearing they know of athletes who were abused in the 13-month period when ‘the FBI did nothing’ between July 2015 when victims reported the abuse to the federal agents and August 2016 when the pedophile was finally arrested on child porn charges.
They all demanded accountability with Biles saying the agents who failed them must ‘at least be federally prosecuted to the fullest extent because they need to be held accountable’.
Senator Patrick Leahy, who had asked what accountability the survivors wanted to see, replied that he agreed: ‘As a former prosecutor, I agree with that.’
FBI Director Chris Wray issued an apology on behalf of the FBI during testimony after the survivors as he said the agents involved in the botched probe ‘failed in their core duty of protecting people.’
Wray said the FBI agents ‘broke the trust’ of the victims and he said he was ‘deeply and profoundly sorry to each and every one of you.’
‘That was inexcusable, it never should have happened, and we are doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again,’ he said.
Wray and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified during the second panel of the hearing after the four survivors gave emotional testimony.
The hearing examines why the FBI failed to investigate Nassar, 58, for his crimes sooner, leaving the predator free to carry on his reign of abuse for more than a year after allegations were first reported.
The FBI’s handling of the case came under close scrutiny in a damning report by the Justice Department watchdog released in July.
The report from Justice Department Inspector General Horowitz found the bureau made a series of failures in its handling of allegations against him when they were first alerted to the abuse in 2015.
It named Special Agent in Charge William Jay Abbott who did not formally open an investigation after the allegations were brought to his attention. Abbott has since retired.
It emerged Tuesday that the FBI has now fired a second agent accused in the report of failing to launch a proper investigation into the allegations.
Michael Langeman, who worked as a supervisory special agent (SSA) in the FBI’s Indianapolis office and interviewed Maroney when she came forward with allegations in 2015, was ousted from his role last week.
Langeman had been removed from his duties as an agent following the release of the report, which found he failed to properly document the interview for 17 months.
The report also found that two agents ‘lied’ about the case and their handling of it.
Neither of the agents have been slapped with charges over their handling of the case.
John Manly, an attorney for many of Nassar’s alleged victims, said Langeman’s firing is ‘long overdue’ but said the timing – just days before the Senate hearing – ‘seems cynical’.
Simone Biles broke down in tears Wednesday as she recounted the abuse she suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar during the Senate hearing into FBI’s botched probe into the sexual abuse case and blasted the agency for turning a ‘blind eye’ to the attacks
Biles, 24, testified that she was failed by the FBI, USA Gymnastics and the Olympic and Paralympic Committee in their handling of Nassar’s abuse and demanded ‘consequences’ for those who ‘allowed the predator to harm children
Biles and her fellow star athletes McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman were sworn in to the hearing Wednesday
The four survivors testified on Capitol Hill about the FBI’s botched handling of its sex abuse investigation of Nassar
Maggie Nichols told the Senate hearing that – six years on from reporting the abuse in 2015 – she is still waiting for answers
McKayla Maroney testified how she spoke to FBI agents for three hours in the summer of 2015 telling them her ‘entire story of abuse’ but they failed to take action
Aly Raisman called for full accountability for people who let Nassar abuse hundreds of young girls for decades in the sport
US Olympic gymnasts (L-R) Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols listen to opening comments
Wray and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz are sworn in Wednesday to give testimony during the second panel of the hearing
Wray sent a message to the survivors saying he will make sure ‘everyone at the FBI remembers what happen here in heartbreaking detail’ to make sure it is ‘never repeated’
Wray said the FBI has started implementing all of the recommendations made in the IG’s report as he said the ‘American people are counting on us to do this right every time.’
He sent a message to the survivors saying he will make sure ‘everyone at the FBI remembers what happen here in heartbreaking detail’ to make sure it is ‘never repeated.’
‘I am not interested in simply addressing this wrong and moving it on. It’s my commitment to you that I and my entire senior leadership team that everyone at the FBI remembers what happen here in heartbreaking detail,’ he said.
‘We need to remember that the pain occurred when we fail to do our jobs. That is what we need to know to ensure this tragedy is never repeated.’
Biles said she was failed by the FBI, USA Gymnastics (USAG) and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) in their handling of Nassar’s abuse.
She demanded ‘answers’, saying she fears the same thing could happen to athletes in the future.
‘I sit before you today to raise my voice so that no little girl must endure what I, the athletes at this table and the countless others needlessly suffered under Nassar’s guise of medical treatment – which we continue to endure to today,’ 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.’
Biles testified that, after reading the watchdog report, ‘it truly feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us and went out of its way to protect USAG and USOPC.’
‘A Message needs to be sent. if u allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe,’ she said.
Biles also testified about the toll the abuse had taken on her including most recently in the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer, where she pulled out of five final events for mental health reasons.
She told the committee how the delay to the Games due to COVID-19 meant she had ‘another 365 days’ of training in the gym and being reminded of the abuse.
‘As the lone competitor in the recent Tokyo games who was a survivor of this horror, I can assure you that the impacts of this man’s abuse are not ever over or forgotten,’ she said.
‘This meant I would be going to the gym, to training, to therapy, living daily among the reminders of this story for another 365 days.’
The athlete said she felt the ‘burden’ most when she traveled to Tokyo without the support of her family amid COVID-19 restrictions.
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar in court in 2018
Maroney testified how she spoke to FBI agents for three hours in the summer of 2015 telling them her ‘entire story of abuse’ but they failed to take action – not reporting it for more than a year and, when they did, they made ‘entirely false claims about what I said.’
Maroney, who took home gold and silver medals at the 2012 Olympics, said the FBI ‘chose to fabricate’ the narrative to ‘protect a serial child molesterer and not protect me.’
‘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,’ she said.
‘I was shocked and deeply disappointed at this narrative they chose to fabricate.
‘They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.’
She recounted how she had not even confided in her mother at this point but told the agents in ‘extreme detail’ over the phone about multiple incidents of abuse.
Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, listen to opening comments during the Senate hearing
All four women told the hearing that they know of athletes who were abused in the 13-month period between July 2015 and August 2016 when ‘the FBI did nothing’
A woman wipes away tears during the hearing on Capitol Hill where the victims spoke of the abuse they suffered
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin said at the start of the hearing how ‘it shocks the conscience’ that the FBI failed the victims
US Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Simone Biles arrive for the hearing Wednesday
She described breaking down in tears on the phone as she went into graphic detail about the abuse only for the agents to ‘minimize and disregard’ her experience and ask: ‘is that all?’
‘I began crying over the phone, and there was just silence. I was so shocked by the agents’ silence and disregard for my trauma and after a minute of silence he just said: is that all?’ she said.
‘Those words in itself was one of the worst moments of this entire process for me.
‘To have my abuse be minimized 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.’
Raisman, who was captain of the 2012 ‘Fierce Five’ women’s women’s Olympic gymnastics team that earned a gold medal, said it ‘disgusts me’ that they are ‘still fighting’ for accountability years later.
‘We are still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability over six years later,’ she said.
Raisman said authorities knew of at least six victims in 2015 but continued to serve ‘innocent children up to a pedophile on a platter.’
‘In 2015 it was known that at least six national team athletes had been abused by Nassar. There was even one of the athletes that was abused on film,’ she said.
‘Given our abuser’s unfettered access to children, stopping him should have been a priority.
‘Instead, the following occurred: The FBI failed to interview pertinent parties in a timely manner. It took over 14 months for the FBI to contact me despite my many requests to be interviewed by them.’
As well as the FBI, Raisman said the USAG and USOPC also have a ‘long history of enabling abuse by turning a blind eye – both organizations knew of Nassar’s abuse long before it became public.’
Raisman told the committee she also felt ‘pressured by the FBI to consent to Nassar’s plea deal.’
Biles, Raisman, Nichols and Maroney sat side by side during the panel to give testimony about the abuse by the doctor.
The four star athletes testified to the committee about the abuse they suffered at the hands of Nassar and how they were failed by authorities
Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman arriving at Capitol Hill where to testify about the FBI’s mishandling of the sex abuse investigation of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar
Simone Biles arrives on Capitol Hill Wednesday for the Senate hearing into the FBI’s handling of the Larry Nassar case
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin told the four women ‘you were all gold medalists today in the pursuit of justice.’
He had introduced the four star athletes at the start of the hearing saying they are ‘star athletes… and they are also survivors.’
Durbin said at the start of the hearing that the FBI’s failures in protecting athletes ‘shock the conscience’, as he noted the inspector general’s findings ‘paint a shocking picture of FBI dereliction of duty and gross incompetence.’
‘It shocks the conscience when those failures come from law enforcement itself,’ Durbin said.
‘Our focus today is on the FBI, how did it fail, so badly, when it came to Nassar’s victims, and what are FBI leaders doing today to ensure this never happens again.’
US Senator Jerry Moran asked ‘why was there more than one’ victim of Nassar, ‘more than dozens’ – given that victims reported his crimes to authorities.
The FBI’s investigation into Nassar started in July 2015, after USA Gymnastics President and CEO Stephen Penny reported the allegations to the FBI’s Indianapolis field office and provided agents with the names of three victims willing to be interviewed.
That office, then led by Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott, did not formally open an investigation. The FBI only interviewed one witness months later, in September 2015, and failed to formally document that interview in an official report known as a ‘302’ until February 2017 – well after the FBI had arrested Nassar on charges of possessing sexually explicit images of children in December 2016.
When the interview was finally documented in 2017 by an unnamed supervisory special agent, the report was filled with ‘materially false information and omitted material information,’ Horowitz’s report determined.
The office also failed to share the allegations with state or local law enforcement agencies.
‘Children suffered needlessly because multiple agents in multiple offices at the FBI neglected to share the Nassar allegations with their law enforcement counterparts at state and local agencies,’ ranking Republican Charles Grassley said in prepared remarks.
‘Disturbingly, the abuse occurred at the hands of someone who was entrusted with their medical treatment and well-being,’ he added.
Simone Biles and Aly Raisman together at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Biles, Kayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman will appear before the committee Wednesday
Horowitz also said that Abbott, who retired from the FBI in 2018, also violated the FBI’s conflict of interest policy by discussing a possible job with the U.S. Olympic Committee while he was involved with the Nassar investigation.
Neither Abbott nor the other unnamed supervisory special agent who botched the Nassar probe were prosecuted for their actions.
The FBI previously called Abbott’s behavior ‘appalling’ and said the supervisory special agent remains with the FBI but is no longer a supervisor and is ‘not working on any more FBI matters.’
An attorney for Abbott previously said in a statement he is thankful to prosecutors for bringing Nassar to justice.
Nassar, who had been the main doctor for Olympic gymnasts, was sentenced in federal court in 2017 to 60 years in prison on charges of possessing child sex abuse material.
The following year, he was also sentenced up to 175 years and up to 125 years, respectively, in two separate Michigan courts for molesting female gymnasts under his care. Prosecutors have estimated he sexually assaulted hundreds of women.