U.S. elite gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman are testifying before Congress Wednesday about what they say were failures in FBI’s handling of the sexual abuse case against Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics team doctor.
Nassar, a former doctor, was sentenced in 2018 to up to 175 years in prison are pleading guilty to sexually assaulting hundreds of girls and women.
“We have been failed, and we deserve answers,” Biles, the first gymnast to speak, said while fighting back tears during parts of her testimony. “Nassar is where he belongs, but 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.”
Biles and her fellow gymnasts on Wednesday painted a portrait in of a system that’s failed them.
“Over the past few years it has become painfully clear how a survivor’s healing is affected by the handling of their abuse, and it disgusts me that we are still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability over six years later,” said Raisman, who cited failings of USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, in addition to the FBI’s.
“It took over 14 months for the FBI to contact me despite my many requests to be interviewed by them,” she said. “I felt pressure by the FBI to consent to Nasser’s plea deal. The agent diminished the significance of my abuse and made me feel my criminal case wasn’t worth pursuing.”
Raisman later described the delay in investigating Nassar as “like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter.”
Maroney accused the FBI of delaying documenting her claims against Nassar and of making false claims.
“Today,” she said to the senators, “I ask you all to hear my voice. I ask you please do all that is in your power to ensure that these individuals are held responsible and accountable for ignoring my initial report, for lying about my initial report and for covering up for a child molester.”
Nichols spoke about wanting people to know about those who suffered from Nassar’s abuse, saying, “I want everyone to know this did not happen to ‘gymnast two’ or ‘athlete A.’ It happened to me, Maggie Nichols.”
“I reported my abuse to USA Gymnastics over six years ago and still my family and I received even few answers and had even more questions why this allowed to occur and why dozens of other little girls and women at Michigan State had to be abused after I reported,” she said. “In sacrificing my childhood for the chance to compete for the United States, I am haunted by the fact even after I reported my abuse so many women and girls had to suffer at the hands of Larry Nassar.”
The hearing was held as the Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating the FBI’s handling of the case.
A Justice Department inspector general report released in July found the FBI made “fundamental errors” in its response to allegations against Nassar that were first brought to the agency in July 2015.
The scathing report accuses FBI field offices in Indianapolis and Los Angeles of failing to respond thoroughly to allegations against Nassar, which allowed him to continue to work with gymnasts at Michigan State University as well as at a high school and a gymnastics club in Michigan.
During the 15 months of alleged inaction by the FBI, Nassar sexually abused at least 70 young athletes, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said at Wednesday’s hearing, citing the inspector general’s report.
“In reviewing the inspector general’s report, it truly feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us and went out of its way to help protect USAG and USOPC,” Biles said in her testimony. “A message needs to be sent: If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough.”
The FBI responded to the inspector general’s report in July by saying the inaction of those field offices “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 at the time, according to The Associated Press.
FBI Director Christopher Wray also is testifying at Wednesday’s hearing, as is Michael Horowitz, inspector general of the Justice Department.
During Nassar’s trial, more than 150 people provided victim impact statements, including Raisman and Maroney. Biles first publicly said she was sexually abused by Nassar in a statement on Twitter in January 2018, writing, “I am not afraid to tell my story anymore.”
When the gymnasts were asked Wednesday what they believe justice looks like, Raisman said she wants a “complete and full” investigation of the FBI’s handling of the Nassar case.
Biles said she wants those involved in the botched investigation to be prosecuted to the “fullest extent.”
“They need to be held accountable,” Biles said.
Raisman also had a message for USA Gymnastics, the sports’ governing body.
“We need to feel like we are not adversaries to USA Gymnastics,” she said. “And we need to feel like our voices matter, that they care, they want to actually be a part of the change we so desperately want.”
ABC News’ Mariam Khan and Trish Turner contributed to this report.
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