Boston

Biles: USA Gymnastics, FBI ‘turned a blind eye' to Nassar's abuse

Boston

Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles told Congress during an emotional testimony on Wednesday that the FBI "turned a blind eye" as hundreds of athletes were abused by Larry Nassar, the disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor.

“I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Biles said in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She said 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.”

Speaking through tears, Biles described feeling failed by the FBI and told lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee that she and other survivors of Nassar's abuse want to see the federal law enforcement officials involved in the botched investigation "prosecuted to the fullest extent because they need to be held accountable."

“We suffered and continue to suffer, because no one at the FBI, USAG, or the USOPC did what was necessary to protect us," Bile said. "We have been failed."

Biles was joined by gold medalists McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman, and gymnast Maggie Nicols, who was identified as “Athlete A,” the first gymnast to report Nassar's abuse to USA Gymnastics leadership in the summer of 2015.

 

Maroney, who competed in the London Olympics Games in 2012, told senators that one night when she was 15 years old, she found the doctor on top of her while she was naked — one of many times she was abused. She said she thought she was going to die that evening.

Maroney said after reporting being molested by Nassar, the agency initially delayed the investigation as others were abused and then "made false claims" about her account when agents eventually documented her report, something she was shocked and deeply disappointed to learn after reading the inspector general report."

"They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me, but countless others," Maroney said.

She added, “If they’re not going to protect me, I want to know who are they trying to protect."

Maroney also called on lawmakers to hold accountable everyone involved in the failures and cover up of Nassar's abuse, particularly the FBI agents who "committed obvious crimes" in falsifying her statements.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is also hearing testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who in a recent report found the FBI failed to, in a timely manner, interview victims who said that Nassar had molested them.

The inspector general’s investigation was spurred by allegations that the FBI failed to promptly address complaints made in 2015 against Nassar. USA Gymnastics had conducted its own internal investigation and then the organization's then-president, Stephen Penny, reported the allegations to the FBI's field office in Indianapolis. But it took months before the bureau opened a formal investigation.

At least 40 girls and women said they were molested over a 14-month period while the FBI was aware of other sexual abuse allegations involving Nassar. Officials at USA Gymnastics also contacted FBI officials in Los Angeles in May 2016 after eight months of inactivity from agents in Indianapolis.

The inspector general’s office found that “despite the extraordinarily serious nature” of the claims against Nassar, FBI officials in Indianapolis did not respond with the “utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and required.”

 

When they did respond, the report said, FBI officials made “numerous and fundamental errors” and also violated bureau policies. Among the missteps was a failure to conduct any investigative activity until more than a month after a meeting with USA Gymnastics. Agents interviewed by phone one of three athletes, but never spoke with two other gymnasts despite being told they were available to meet.

The watchdog investigation also found that when the FBI's Indianapolis field office’s handling of the matter came under scrutiny, officials there did not take any responsibility for the missteps and gave incomplete and inaccurate information to internal FBI inquiries to make it look like they had been diligent in their investigation.

The FBI rebuked its own employees who failed to act in the case and said it “should not have happened.”

“The actions and inactions of certain FBI employees described in the Report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization,” the agency said in a statement.

“The FBI has taken affirmative steps to ensure and has confirmed that those responsible for the misconduct and breach of trust no longer work FBI matters,” the statement said. “We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the failures of the employees outlined in the Report do not happen again.”

The inspector general interviewed an FBI supervisory special agent last September who said the original allegations reported by Penny and USA Gymnastics were “very vague” and who questioned Penny’s credibility, describing him as “kind of a snake oil salesman kind of guy.”

That special agent also told investigators that the Indianapolis field office didn’t appear to have jurisdiction to investigate because the alleged crimes did not take place in Indiana. That agent and an FBI supervisor in the office said they told Penny to contact local law enforcement — a claim contradicted by Penny and the chairman of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors.

The FBI said the supervisory special agent “violated multiple policies” and that the agency took immediate action when it learned that the agent did not properly document the sexual abuse complaints, had mishandled evidence and failed to report abuse.

The report also detailed that while the FBI was investigating the Nassar allegations, the head of the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis, W. Jay Abbott, was talking to Penny about getting a job with the Olympic Committee. He applied for the job but didn’t get it and later retired from the FBI, the report said.

 

Abbott also lied to investigators from the inspector general’s office multiple times in an effort “to minimize errors” made by his office in handling the case, the report found.

Nassar was ultimately charged in 2016 with federal child pornography offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan.

He is now serving decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women said he sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

NBC staff and AP contributed to this story.