Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles broke down in tears Wednesday, testifying that the "FBI turned a blind eye to" the multiple reports of abuse against Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor who is behind bars for sexually abusing more than 200 young athletes over nearly two decades.
Biles, along with top gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Maggie Nichols, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on how the FBI mishandled its investigation into Nassar, ignoring their reports for more than a year, which allowed him to continue molesting dozens of athletes.
"We suffered and continue to suffer, because no one at FBI, [USA Gymnastics], or the [United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee] did what was necessary to protect us,” Biles said. “We have been failed, and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable."
The Senate hearing comes two months after a report from the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) detailed, with damning evidence, the ways in which the FBI neglected to pursue the investigation into Nassar for more than a year — and how federal agents lied and falsified witness testimony to cover up their errors and inaction.
In her statement, Maroney said she first spoke with the FBI about her abuse at Nassar's hands in July 2015.
"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 testified. “They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.”
In their statements, Nichols and Raisman said it took more than a year for the FBI to interview them after they reported their abuse to USAG.
Nichols said former USAG president Steve Penny told her to "keep quiet" about Nassar so as not to do anything that could hurt the FBI investigation.
"We now know there was no real FBI investigation occurring. While my complaints languished with the FBI, Larry Nassar continued to abuse women and girls," she said.
Nassar left USAG shortly after the first accusations were levied against him, but the organization failed to inform the other institutions where he worked about them.
"Steve Penny and any USAG employee could have walked a few steps to file a report with Indiana Child Protective Services, since they shared the same building," Raisman said. "Instead they quietly allowed Nassar to slip out the side door ... [and] Nassar found more than 100 new victims to molest. It was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter."
All four gymnasts said they knew athletes who had been abused by Nassar in the 17-month period after the FBI was first informed of the allegations against him.
The gymnasts also described unprofessionalism on the part of the FBI agents who were handling the Nassar investigation.
"I remember sitting with the FBI agent and him trying to convince me that it wasn't that bad," Raisman said. "It's taken me years of therapy to realize that my abuse was bad, that it does matter." She added that the FBI agent encouraged her not to pursue criminal charges against Nassar.
Maroney described the lack of empathy on the part of the agent who conducted her initial three-hour interview in July 2015.
"I began crying at the memory over the phone, and there was just dead silence,” she said. “I was so shocked at the agent's silence and disregard for my trauma. After that minute of silence, he asked: 'Is that all?'"
"What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?” she asked. “They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing. If they’re not going to protect me, I want to know who are they trying to protect.”
The agent who interviewed Maroney, Michael Langeman, was fired by the FBI days before Wednesday's hearing.
Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, apologized to the gymnasts during Wednesday's hearing, telling them he is sorry so many people let them 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 2015 and failed, and that is inexcusable," he said.
Biles also linked the mental health issues she faced during the Tokyo Olympics — where she dropped out of multiple competitions, saying she was not in the right headspace to compete — to the ongoing trauma she deals with from Nassar's abuse.
"As the lone competitor in the Tokyo Games who was a survivor of this horror, I can assure you the impacts of this man's abuse are not over or ever forgotten," Biles said. "The announcement in the spring of 2020 that the Tokyo Games were to be postponed for a year meant that I would be going to the gym, to training, to therapy, living daily among the reminders of this story for another 365 days."
Raisman also addressed the trauma she faces as a result of being sexually abused.
"Being here today is taking everything I have," Raisman said. "My main concern is I hope I have the energy to even just walk out of here."