Simone Biles and teammates testify on the FBI’s mishandling of the Lawrence Nassar sexual assault case

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 15: (L-R) U.S. Olympic Gymnasts Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and NCAA and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols are approached by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) after their testimony during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI handling of the Larry Nassar investigation of sexual abuse of Olympic gymnasts, on Capitol Hill on September 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biles and other fellow U.S. Gymnasts gave testimony on the abuse they experienced at the hand of Larry Nassar, the former US women's national gymnastics team doctor, and the FBI’s lack of urgency when handling their cases. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Simone Biles and three of her former teammates from the United States national gymnastics team testified Wednesday about the FBI’s mishandling of the Lawrence Nassar sexual abuse case. Testifying before a Senate committee, Simone Biles and her teammates detailed how the FBI failed to properly investigate accusations of sexual abuse at the hands of former national team doctor Lawrence Nassar. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray also testified at the hearing and apologized to the victims for the mishandling of the investigation. Though the FBI became aware of accusations in 2015, they failed to act. Nassar continued treating and abusing patients for eight months. According to a Justice Department inspector general’s report, Nassar was able to molest more than 70 girls and women as the FBI failed to act. 

In total, Nassar abused more than 300 women and girls, with accusations dating back to the 1990s. Simone Biles gave a powerful statement about the failures of the USA. Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee. 

“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse. USA. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew that I was abused by their official team doctor, long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge.” 

Simone Biles
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 15: U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles is sworn in to testify during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI handling of the Larry Nassar investigation of sexual abuse of U.S. gymnasts, on Capitol Hill, September 15, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images)
Saul Loeb – Pool/Getty Images

Biles’ teammate McKayla Maroney detailed how the FBI mishandled her accusations in 2015 and made false statements regarding her account of events. According to Maroney, the agent investigating summarized her account falsely more than a year after their interview. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz detailed that the false report could have jeopardized legal action against Nassar. 

Failures within the FBI

The FBI agent Michael Langeman, who took Maroney’s statement, was fired last week in the build-up to the hearing. Langeman failed to alert state officials of the potential abuse, in direct violation of FBI policy. W. Jay Abbott, another agent at the FBI’s Indianapolis office, is also no longer with the FBI. Though he retired in 2018, the Justice Department’s report named Abbott as also making false statements. 

This case has brought conversations about sexual violence against women and the systematic forces that allow this abuse to continue. Though Nassar is serving a life sentence for his crimes, the abuse went unaddressed for far too long. We’ll see if these hearings can bring more accountability to the institutions that allowed the abuse to happen. 

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