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Washington D.C. – It was an emotional day of testimony at a Senate hearing Wednesday as four U.S. gymnasts recounted their experience with former U.S.A. Gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar, and the subsequent botched investigation by the FBI.
Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Maggie Nichols all shared their frustrations in “a system that enabled and perpetrated [Nassar’s] abuse,” Biles said. “To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.”
The FBI’s investigation into Larry Nassar began in July of 2015, after USA Gymnastics President Stephen Penny reported the allegations to the FBI.
FBI delayed sexual assault investigation for months
The lead investigator, Special Agent Jay Abbott, did not formally open an investigation. Only one witness was interviewed, McKayla Maroney, months later in September of 2015.
She recalled sitting on her bedroom floor in 2015 telling the FBI on the phone “all of my molestations in extreme detail.” She said that after describing instances of abuse by Nassar, including before her winning the team gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012, “I cried, and there was just silence” on the part of the FBI agent.
“Not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney said.
FBI agents fired, resign
The FBI failed to formally document the September 2015 interview with Maroney until February of 2017, long after the FBI had arrested Nassar on charges of possessing sexually explicit images of children in December of 2016.
The Justice Department didn’t bring charges against either of the former FBI agents most closely involved in the case. The FBI fired Special Agent Michael Langeman in the last two weeks. Langman’s supervisor, Special Agent Jay Abbott, previously had resigned.
As the FBI delayed it’s investigation, Nassar went on to abuse more victims. Senator Richard Blumenthal asked all four gymnasts whether they knew of victims who were abused after the initial July 2015 disclosure.
“Yes,” all four said.
FBI director testifies
FBI Director Christopher Wray, testifying after the four gymnasts, said that the “kinds of fundamental errors that were made in this case in 2015 and 2016 should have never happened, period.”
He told the gymnasts he was “deeply and profoundly sorry that so many people let you down over and over again. On no planet is what happened in this case acceptable.”
Aly Raisman, also a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, called for an investigation of USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. She said the victims of Nassar’s abuse have “been treated like adversaries.”
Raisman said that all she and her fellow gymnasts are asking for “is when a child goes to gymnastics or goes to school or does anything that they can be spared abuse.” She told the panel, “We’ve been victim-shamed online over and over again.”
“All we needed was for one adult to do the right thing,” she added.