WASHINGTON - Simone Biles, the most accomplished gymnast in history, did not want to be in Congress on Wednesday, testifying before a Senate committee of the badis the FBI 's handling of one of the biggest sexual abuse cases in US history.
Sitting at the table Witnessing alongside three of her former United States national team teammates, Biles said she couldn't imagine being less comfortable. But she has chosen to speak publicly to lawmakers for herself, as a survivor of such abuse, but also for other athletes, especially children, whom she feels obligated to protect.
Biles, 24, broke down in tears as she explained that she no longer wanted young people to suffer the suffering she has at the hands of a pedophile. She and hundreds of other girls and women were assaulted by Lawrence G. Nassar, the former national team doctor. He is now serving what amounts to life in prison for several sex crimes.
"To be clear.I blame Larry Nassar, but I also blame an entire system that allowed and perpetrated his abuses, ”said Biles.
McKayla Maroney, gold medalist Olympic, also testified, describing, in touching detail, how the FBI mistreated her when she told officers how Nassar assaulted her over and over again, even just before she won her victory. gold medal. She had told them about a time when she and Nassar were in Tokyo for a contest when he assaulted her. She thought she "was going to die that night because there was no way he would let me go ". about the abuse, the trauma she hadn 't even told her mother about yet, she said officers said, "Is that all? " She was just 'a teenage girl and she felt overwhelmed by their lack of empathy.
"Not just the FBI not reported my abuse, but when they didI didn't document my report 17 months later, they made completely false statements about what I said, "Maroney said. "They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others. " The director, Christopher Wray, testified of the agency's botched handling of Nassar's sexual abuse case, the first public questioning of the failure to properly investigate a sexual abuse case that rocked the world of sport. Wray, who became the agency's director in 2017, apologized to the victims and said he was heartbroken and furious when he learned that F.B.I. had made so many mistakes in the business before he took charge of the agency.
"We must remember the pain that happened when our people didn't do their job, he said, referring tothe suffering of the victims. He added that the F.B.I. would make changes to ensure the mismanagement never happens again.
The hearing comes days after the FBI fired an agent who was initially working on the case investigating Nassar, the former national gymnastics team doctor who was ultimately found guilty of abusing numerous gymnasts, including Olympians, under the guise of physical exams.
And it comes two months after the Department of Justice Inspector General released a report that sharply criticized the FBI for making crucial mistakes in this area. These errors allowed Nassar to continue treating patients for eight months at Michigan State University, where he practiced, and in and around Lansing, Michigan, including a local gymnastics center and high school.
Nassar, who is serving what amounts to life in prison for sexual misconduct, was able to assault more than 70 girls and women while the FBI failed to act, according to the report. Inspector General.
To start the hearing, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois berated the FBI for "dereliction of duty ", Its" systematic organizational failure "and its" glaring failures "in this case, and lawmakers would like to know from the FBI how and why these failures happened and why it decided not to prosecute its agents who made devastating mistakes. in the matter.
"It shocks the conscience when failures come from the law enforcement agencies themselves, but that is exactly what that happened in the Nassar case, "said Senator Durbin.
Two FBI agents initially assigned to the dossierr no longer work for the agency. Michael Langeman, a special supervisory agent with the FBI office in Indianapolis, was fired in the days leading up to Wednesday's hearing, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. These people did not want their names published because they do not have the authority to speak about the matter. The Washington Post was the first to report the news of Langeman's dismissal.
Langeman, who was not immediately available for comment, did not named in the Inspector General's report, but his actions as a special oversight officer and multiple critical missteps have been described in detail. The report says Langeman should have known that Nassar's abuse was probably widespread, but he did not investigate the case urgently.
Langeman only interviewed one of the three elite gymnasts who donated to USAGymnastics details of Nassar's abuse and has not properly documented this interview or opened an investigation. In an interview report that Langeman filed with the F.B.I. 17 months after speaking to this gymnast - Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, who was not named in the report - he included statements she did not make, according to the report .
Like other agents initially involved in the case, Langeman also failed to alert local or state officials to Nassar's alleged abuse, violating the FBI policy which states that crimes against children "invariably require a broad, multi-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary approach ". for the matter to be transferred to the Lansing office because that is where Nassar was based in the state of Michigan. But the papers were not found in the F.B.I. database, according to Inspector General report.
W. Jay Abbott, a special agent with the FBI office in Indianapolis, is also no longer with the FBI after retiring in 2018. The report says he made false statements to Department of Justice investigators and also "violated the FBI policy and displayed extremely poor judgment under federal ethics rules. According to the report, he was seeking employment with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and was in spoke with Steve Penny, who was then president of USA Gymnastics. Abbott applied for the position with the USOPC, but did not get the job, but told Department of Justice investigators that he had never applied.
Hundreds of girls and women who w Before we were mistreated by Nassar, we were waiting for news from the FBI on the mistakes of the case. Biles, the Olympic gold medalist, expressed swe want to know "who knew what and when" about Nassar. She won a silver and a bronze medal at the Tokyo Games after dropping out of team competition due to a mental health issue.
Biles testified alongside former teammates Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, who is known as" Athlete A "in the Nassar case because she was the first gymnast in Nassar. elite to report abuse to USA Gymnastics. It was in July 2015. The Lansing office of F.B.I. opened his official investigation into Nassar in October 2016.
Adam Goldman contributed to the Washington reports.