US gymnasts demand justice in FBI's botched Nassar probe

Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols deliver scathing testimonies before US Senate

US gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols delivered excruciating accounts of sexual abuse endured under disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and how the FBI had botched its investigation before a US Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Biles and Raisman appeared before the US Senate Judiciary Committee alongside former Olympic teammate Maroney and former gymnast Nichols, who was the first gymnast to report abuse to USA Gymnastics.

All four gymnasts have publicly said they were abused by Nassar.

The hearing comes after US Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a scathing report in July that meticulously detailed the FBI's mishandling of the investigation.

Biles, speaking first, noted the failure and negligence of the organisations that were designed to protect her and other US gymnasts and demanded that Nassar's enablers be held accountable.

“I don’t want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured before, during and continuing to this day,” Biles said.

Biles, 24, is one of the most decorated US gymnasts of all time. She withdrew from the vault and uneven bars competitions at the Tokyo Olympics this year, citing mental health reasons. She was expected to medal in both events.

Maroney, speaking next, accused the FBI agents involved in the investigation of protecting a sexual predator. Maroney, who described Nassar as "more of a paedophile than he was a coach", recalled a three-hour phone call with an FBI agent in 2015 in which she detailed the abuse she had endured.

The FBI did not document her interview until 17 months later, when she found they made "entirely false claims" about what she said. By this time, Nassar had already been arrested on charges of possessing sexually explicit images of children.

“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 said.

“What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?”

Mr Horowitz supported this claim in his own testimony, and added that the now-fired agent "could have bolstered Mr Nassar's defence."

Quote
They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me, but countless others
McKayla Maroney, former US Olympic gymnast

Nichols and Raisman provided similar stinging rebukes of the FBI's investigation and detailed their own experiences of the agency's mishandling of the sex abuse probe.

"I remember sitting with the FBI agent and him trying to convince me that it wasn't that bad," Raisman said.

FBI Director Chris Wray, who testified alongside Mr Horowitz, announced that that one of the agents who participated in the botched investigation now no longer works for the agency in any capacity.

"I'm deeply and profoundly sorry," Mr Wray said.

Nassar was sentenced in federal court in 2017 to 60 years in prison for charges of possessing child sex abuse material. Later that year, he was sentenced to 175 years and up to 125 years, respectively, for molesting gymnasts under his care. More than 150 women at the time gave evidence that they had been sexually abused by Nassar.

Prosecutors estimate he sexually assaulted hundreds of women.

Updated: September 16th 2021, 7:02 AM
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