On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimonies from Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and her former United States teammates Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols.
The four gymnasts testified to the Committee that current and former FBI agents who mishandled the bureau’s investigation into former team doctor Larry Nassar should be held accountable. Nassar is serving a de facto life sentence after being convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault and child pornography.
“It truly feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us,” Biles said during her testimony, breaking down into tears and adding that agents should be federally prosecuted in order to be held fully accountable.
According to a recent report published by the Department of Justice’s inspector general, the FBI agents handling the case failed to respond with the “seriousness and urgency” required following the initial reports of Nassar’s abuse in the summer of 2015. The FBI’s failure to act, it says, enabled Nassar to continue treating patients at Michigan State University and in Lansing, Mich., resulting in more than 70 girls and women being assaulted under the guise of medical treatment.
Maroney, a 2012 Olympian, described Nassar’s abuse in detail on Wednesday. The FBI agent taking her testimony reportedly asked at the end of her statement, “Is that all?” Maroney said she was crushed by the lack of empathy.
“Not only did the F.B.I. not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney testified. “They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.
“By not taking action from my report, they allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year. They had legal evidence of child abuse and did nothing.”
Raisman backed up Maroney’s testimony, saying that it took over 14 months for FBI agents to contact her after she initially reported Nassar’s sexual assaults to USA Gymnastics in June 2015.
“The FBI made me feel like my abuse didn’t count and that it wasn’t real,” Raisman said.
Christopher A. Wray, who took over as FBI director in 2017, apologized to the gymnasts for the FBI’s failures.
“I’m sorry that so many people let you down again and again,” Wray said Wednesday. “I am especially sorry that there were people at the F.B.I. who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed, and that is inexcusable. It never should have happened, and we are doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.”
Wray added that one of the agents initially involved in the case, Michael Langeman, was fired two weeks ago. The other, W. Jay Abbott, voluntarily retired in 2018. Several senators were surprised and disgusted by the fact that Abbott was able to leave the FBI without discipline.
According to the Justice Department’s report, Langeman failed to properly document the interview with Maroney or open an investigation. It was also found that Abbott “violated F.B.I. policy and exercised extremely poor judgment under federal ethics rules.”
Abbott reportedly had been trying to get a job with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and had conversations with Steve Penny, who was the president of USA Gymnastics at the time.
But Penny’s attorneys have previously told ESPN that those assertions are “absurd.”
“The only favor that Steve wanted from Agent Abbott or anyone at the FBI was for them to promptly and thoroughly investigate Nassar,” the attorneys said.
Senator Patrick Leahy and others expressed outrage that that those who mishandled the case have not been prosecuted. He said that anyone who “turned a blind eye” to Nassar’s abuse should face criminal charges.
“A whole lot of people should be in prison,” Leahy said.
Biles wants the accountability to extend to officials from USAG and the USOPC.
“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, but I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” she said. “This is the largest case of sexual abuse in the history of American sport, and although there has been an independent investigation of the FBI’s handling of the case, neither USAG nor the USOPC have ever been made the subject of the same level of scrutiny.”