New Delhi: Olympic gymnast Simone Biles broke down while testifying before a US Senate panel Wednesday in connection with the alleged botched-up investigation by the FBI into the charges of sexual abuse against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Nassar, a former employee of Michigan State University, has already been found guilty in three separate cases and one of the jail sentences runs up to 175 years.
Apart from Biles, other well known gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman also appeared before the US Senate Judiciary Committee. The four are among the hundreds of women who Nassar sexually abused during what he claimed were routine medical examinations.
Nichols was the first athlete from the US national team who reported the abuse by Nassar.
“The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us,” Biles said at the hearing, as quoted by The New York Times in a report.
“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” she said appearing before the US Senate Judiciary Committee..
Biles added that USA Gymnastics failed to act, and so did the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, while the FBI “turned a blind eye”.
The FBI is accused of botching the Nassar investigation, allowing him to continue abusing more women athletes for over a year before he was finally arrested.
Appearing before the committee, FBI Director Chris Wray said they had fired one of the agents “who had falsified the details of Maroney’s 2015 interview about the abuse”, a Reuters report said.
“On no planet is what happened in this case acceptable,” he told the panel.
Allegations Against Larry Nassar
In 2015, gymnasts McKayla Maroney recalled, she had spent three hours on the phone telling FBI officials her story of the sexual abuse she had endured during the London Olympics. She described Nassar as “more of a pedophile than he was a doctor”.
“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 told the panel.
The FBI started an investigation into the allegations against Nassar in July 2015, after USA Gymnastics President and CEO Stephen Penny reported the allegations to the FBI’s Indianapolis field office.
In July this year, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued a scathing report against the FBI, pointing out a series of errors in the investigation.
Many gymnasts blasted the FBI for failing to immediately speak to them after they had reported the abuse at the hands of Nassar.
They also said the FBI agents tried to downplay the abuse when they finally called them for interviews.
“I remember sitting with the FBI agent and him trying to convince me that it wasn’t that bad,” Aly Raisman said during the hearing. “It’s taken me years of therapy to realize that my abuse was bad, that it does matter.”
How FBI Botched Up Probe
Testifying before the panel, Inspector General Horowitz said the FBI agent, who has since been fired, “could have actually jeopardized the criminal investigation by providing false information that could have bolstered Nassar’s defense”.
While the FBI declined to name the agent, the Reuters report said, Senator Richard Blumenthal identified him as Michael Langeman.
Langeman, however, has not been prosecuted yet.
During the hearing on Wednesday, When Blumenthal asked the four athletes if they knew of other victims who were abused after Nassar’s acts were reported to the FBI in July 2015, all of them replied in the affirmative.
Earlier, opening the hearing, Senator Richard J Durbin came down heavily on the FBI for its “dereliction of duty”, “systematic organizational failure”, and “gross failures”.
“It shocks the conscience when the failures come from law enforcement itself, yet that’s exactly what happened in the Nassar case,” Durbin said, according to the NYT report.
In her testimony, Raisman also questioned why USAG and USOPC did not warn anyone. “Both organizations knew of Nassar’s abuse, long before it became public.”
While USA Gymnastics has not issued any statement on the accusation, the USOPC said it remains “completely dedicated to the safety and well-being” of its athletes, Reuters reported.