New Delhi: Four-time Olympic gold medallist and five-time world champion Simon Biles accused gymnastics officials and authorities of enabling team doctor Larry Nassar, who sexually abused her and several other athletes in a recent hearing.
In an emotional hearing before the US Senate Wednesday, Biles said that the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee along with federal law enforcement failed to protect the athletes from the abuse. She also accused the FBI of turning a “blind eye”.
“I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetuated his abuse,” said Biles, stressing on the need to hold the guilty accountable.
Recounting the lasting toll of Nassar’s crimes on her and hundreds of other athletes, the gymnast told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “enough is enough”. The former doctor was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison in January after more than 150 women accused him of sexual abuse over the years.
According to a report in AP, “The hearing is part of a congressional effort to hold the FBI accountable after multiple missteps in investigating the case, including the delays that allowed the now-imprisoned Nassar to abuse other young gymnasts.”
ThePrint explains the case surrounding Larry Nassar and the multiple sexual abuse allegations levelled against him.
Who is Larry Nassar?
In a decade-long career in sports medicine, Nassar worked as a student athletic trainer in a Detroit school and worked with the football team at the University of Michigan.
He joined the US gymnastics national team medical staff as an athletic trainer in 1996.
Then in 2015, he abruptly resigned from the post. A year later, multiple women came forward with allegations of sexual assault.
The sexual abuse allegations first came to light in 2016 in a series of reports by the newspaper The Indianapolis Star.
According to The New York Times, two gymnasts interviewed by the newspaper specifically accused Nassar of abuse.
One of the gymnasts, Rachel Denhollander, accused Nassar of abusing her in 2000 when she was 15 years old.
USA Today, meanwhile, reported that records showed that allegations were raised on multiple occasions against Nassar but he continued to stay on his post and no action was taken against him for years.
“Eventually, 125 women filed criminal complaints with police, and more than 300 people — including victims, spouses, and parents — have filed civil suits against the doctor and the institutions that employed him for so long, most notably USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University,” noted a report in Vox.
Among these were three athletes that won Olympic gymnastics gold in 2012 who had come forward in 2017 to publicly admit that they had gone through the same abuse.
McKayla Maroney, 2012 Olympic champion, revealed so in a Twitter post, followed by Aly Raisman, then captain of the US gymnastics team, and Gabby Douglas.
In January 2018, Biles said that she too had been abused by Nassar.
FBI probe into Nassar
The FBI’s probe into the allegations against Nassar began in July 2015 but they interviewed only one witness, Maroney, several months later in September 2015. The interview wasn’t formally documented at the time.
Nassar was eventually arrested only over a year later in December 2016. He was indicted on federal child pornography charges and around 37,000 images and videos of child pornography were found on his hard drives at his home.
An internal investigation by the US Justice Department, according to the AP, revealed the carelessness with which the FBI handled the case after some of the initial cases were reported to them in 2015.
FBI Director Christopher Wray addressed the loopholes during the hearing Wednesday, and promised the athletes that “it will never happen again”.
Wray apologised to the four gymnasts and their families for his predecessor’s failures and described his colleagues’ behaviour towards the matter as “completely unacceptable”.
“I am deeply and profoundly sorry to each and every one of you… I am sorry that so many different people let you down over and over again. And I am especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed. And that is inexcusable, and should have never happened,” Wray said.