Simone Biles on Tuesday offered emotional testimony at a US Senate hearing into the Larry Nassar abuse scandal, an episode that rocked the world of gymnastics and involved some of the most famous young athletes in the US.
Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics team doctor, is serving an effective life sentence after abusing dozens of athletes under his care.
Biles and other Olympic gold medalists, such as Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, are among the survivors of the abuse.
On Tuesday, they appeared in front of a Senate committee to give testimony at the hearing into the FBI’s failed 2015 investigation into the case.
Biles began her testimony with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
She briefly had to pause after becoming overcome with emotion, before she continued.
“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” 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,” Biles added.
The FBI is accused of failing to properly investigate allegations that Nassar was abusing athletes in his care.
“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,” US Senator Chuck Grassley said in prepared remarks before Tuesday’s hearing.
Biles, widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, withdrew from several events at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo to maintain her mental health.
On Tuesday, she said that the legacy of Nassar’s abuse had affected her.
“The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us. I worked incredibly hard to make sure that my presence could help maintain a connection between the failures [around the Nassar case] and the competition at Tokyo 2020,” she said. “That has proven to be an exceptionally difficult burden for me to carry, particularly when required to travel to Tokyo without the support of any of my family. I am a strong individual and I will persevere, but I never should have been left alone to suffer the abuse of Larry Nassar — and the only reason I did was because of the failures that lie at the heart of the abuse that you are now asked to investigate.”
The 24-year-old added that she fears similar cases could arise if proper action is not taken.
“Nassar is where he belongs. 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,” she said.
Maroney and Raisman described how the FBI had failed to investigate their complaints against Nassar properly.
FBI director Christopher Wray appeared at the hearing and admitted his agency had failed the survivors of Nassar’s abuse.
“I want to be crystal clear: The actions and inaction of the FBI employees detailed in this report are totally unacceptable,” he said.
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