Gymnasts testify to the senate: Larry Nassar case


Ea Perkins

Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols after testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Larry Nassar’s abuse and their subsequent interactions with the FBI. (Ea Perkins)

On Sept. 15, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, as well as former gymnasts Aly Raisman, Maggie Nichols and Mckayla Maroney testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the abuse they suffered from Larry Nassar, a former doctor for USA Gymnastics (USAG) and Michigan State University (MSU). 

In each of the women’s testimonies they expressed that they felt they had been let down by the FBI and those who were supposed to protect them. 

“We suffered and continue to suffer because no one at the FBI, USAG or the USOPC [United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee] did what was necessary to protect us. We have been failed, and we deserve answers,” four time Olympic gold medalist Biles said in her statement

Nassar has been accused by more than 330 people of sexual assault according to the BBC and has been charged in three different cases, one of which holds a prison sentence of 175 years. Many of those who have been accused of allowing the abuse to continue have not been charged in these cases.

“Those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable…A message needs to be sent: If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough,” Biles said.

The hearing comes just a short while after the release of a 119 page report from the Justice Department Inspector General in July detailing the failings of the FBI’s investigation into the allegations against Nassar. 

“Approximately 70 or more young athletes were allegedly sexually abused by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment between July 2015, when USA Gymnastics first reported allegations about Nassar to the Indianapolis Field Office, and September 2016,” according to the report.  

In September, a search warrant for Nassar’s residence was issued by the MSU Police Department and the FBI Lansing Resident Agency finally learned of the allegations. The Assistant US District Attorney had advised the Indianapolis Field Office to turn the case off to the FBI Lansing Resident Agency, but the office did not do so even though they informed the USAG that they had. So the first the FBI Lansing Resident Agency heard of the allegations came after the MSUPD issued the search warrant.

“The Lansing Resident Agency ultimately discovered over 30,000 images of child pornography on the devices seized by the MSUPD during its search of Nassar’s residence,” the report said. 

The report detailed how after receiving the allegations of abuse from USA Gymnastics the Indianapolis Field Office conducted “limited follow up” including only interviewing one of the three athletes who reported their abuse, failing to open an official investigation, and not documenting any of their investigative work including the interview with the athlete or their meeting with USA Gymnastics.

“Further, both offices had serious questions as to whether the allegations against Nassar were sufficient to support federal jurisdiction. Yet, the Indianapolis Field Office did not advise state or local authorities about the allegations and did not take any action to mitigate the risk to gymnasts that Nassar continued to treat,” the report said. 

Maroney referenced the OIG report in her statement saying that after detailing her abuse to the FBI for nearly three hours in 2015 the agents who interviewed her did not write down her statement until about 17 months later in “a statement that the OIG Report determined to be ‘materially false.’” 

The statement “could have jeopardized the then-ongoing, and future, criminal investigations by providing false information to bolster Nassar’s defense,” Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said during his testimony

Raisman provided another example of the FBI’s lagging investigation when she told the committee that it took the FBI 14 months to contact her even though she had asked to be interviewed several times. 

When she was finally interviewed she said that “Steve Penny arranged with the FBI to conduct my interview at the Olympic Training Center where I was under the control and observation of USAG and USOPC. The day of my interview Steve Penny flew to the Olympic Training Center and made sure that I was aware he was there.”

Raisman also reminded the committee that the Indianapolis Field Office Special Agent in Charge, W. Jay Abbott, met with Penny, the USA Gymnastics President, to talk about a job opportunity with the Olympic Committee. 

“These discussions included Penny expressing concern to Abbott about how USA Gymnastics was being portrayed in the media and whether Penny might be ‘in trouble’ and Abbott proposing to his colleagues an FBI public statement that would place USA Gymnastics in a positive light. At the same time, Abbott was aware that Penny appeared willing to put in a good word on Abbott’s behalf. Abbott applied for the U.S. Olympic Committee position in 2017 but was not selected. Despite evidence confirming that Abbott had applied for the job, Abbott denied to the OIG during two interviews that he had,” the report said. 

In addition to the testimonies provided by the gymnasts and Horowitz, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified saying that an Indianapolis Field Office Supervisory Special Agent, identified to the Post by anonymous sources as Michael Langeman, who lied about his mistakes during the investigation has been fired. In the report the supervisory agent was said to have been the one who wrote the statement attributed to Maroney that she said was “fabricated.” 

According to a press release by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, Langeman’s boss, Abbot was also determined to have lied about the failings of the Indianapolis Field Office. However, he retired before any action could be taken. According to NPR, no charges have been brought against either of them by the Justice Department. 

Wray went on to apologize to the gymnasts saying “I’m deeply and profoundly sorry to each and every one of you. I’m sorry for what you and your families have been through. I’m sorry that so many different people let you down, over and over again. And I’m especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in in [sic] 2015 and failed.” Also letting them know he would make “damn sure everybody at the FBI remembers what happened here—in heartbreaking detail.”

Towards the end of her statement Maroney said “To not indict these agents, is a disservice to me and my teammates. It is a disservice to the system which was built to protect all of us from abuse. It is a disservice to every victim who suffered needlessly at the hands of Larry Nassar after I spoke up! Why are public servants whose job is to protect, getting away with this? This is not justice. This is more injustice! Enough is enough! I want justice!”