Gymnasts urge U.S. Senate to investigate Larry Nassar sexual abuse after botched FBI inquiry

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Olympic gold medalists including Simone Biles and Aly Raisman on Wednesday detailed for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee the failure of the FBI to research dozens of complaints of sexual assault committed by Larry Nassar, the disgraced team doctor for USA Gymnastics and a former Michigan State University physician.  The gymnasts also urged senators to research the institutions that enabled the abuse. Biles, one among the foremost decorated gymnasts in history, outlined how the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and therefore us Olympic and Paralympic Committee turned a “blind eye” to the sexual assault that Nassar administered with many young athletes.

“I blame Larry Nassar and that I also blame a whole system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Biles said. He is currently serving a 40-to-175-year sentence in prison after quite 150 women and girls said he sexually abused them. Michigan State was fined $4.5 million by the federal over its handling of Nassar and his crimes after investigators found Michigan State didn’t adequately answer complaints about him. Earlier this year, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said that Michigan State officials’ refusal to voluntarily to waive privilege to thousands of documents involving Nassar meant her own inquiry was closed.

Wednesday’s hearing came after an military officer report in July found that the FBI botched its investigation into allegations of Nassar’s sexual assault by falsifying witness statements, failing to contact possible victims of abuse and delaying its investigation for nearly 15 months after USA Gymnastics first reported allegations to the agency’s Indianapolis field office in 2015. “As our report further details, Larry Nassar’s abuses alright could and will are stopped sooner, if appropriate action had been taken by the FBI in response to the courageous actions of those athletes,” Michael E. Horowitz, the military officer at the U.S. Department of Justice, said in his opening statement.

“Not only did that not occur, but after the FBI agents’ inadequate and incompetent response came to light, FBI records were created that falsely summarized the testimony of an athlete who had spent hours detailing the abuses she endured, and inaccurately described the FBI’s handling of the matter.” More than 70 young women would be molested after the FBI was alerted of things . A formal investigation by the FBI was only started after the Indianapolis Star published an investigative story in September 2016 reporting the abuse gymnasts faced by Nassar, who at the time worked as a physician at Michigan State after retiring from USA Gymnastics.

The IG report also found that an unnamed agent overseeing the investigation and W. Jay Abbott, the agent responsible of the Indianapolis field office, lied to the inspector general’s office multiple times when asked about the Indianapolis field office’s investigation into Nassar so as “to minimize errors made by the Indianapolis Field Office in reference to the handling of the Nassar allegations.” The report also found that Abbott would meet with Steve Penny, who at the time was the president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics, a few potential job opportunity with the U.S. Olympic Committee, while the FBI was currently investigating allegations into Nassar.

Maggie Nichols of Minnesota, a World Artistic Gymnastics Championship gold medalist, said that she, alongside countless other survivors, don’t understand how nobody from the FBI, USA Gymnastics of the us Olympic and Paralympic Committee has faced federal charges. “For many many survivors of Larry Nassar, this hearing is one among our last opportunities to urge justice,” she said. “We ask that you simply do what’s in your power to make sure people who engaged in wrongdoing are held accountable under the law.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, (D-Ill.), said that a separate report by a panel on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, (D-Conn.), and Jerry Moran, (R-Kansas), “concluded that the US Olympic Committee and therefore the USA Gymnastics knowingly concealed abuse by Nassar between the summer of 2015 and September of 2016.” “Make no mistake, egregious failures like this one don’t arise out of nowhere,” Durbin said. “They are enabled by systematic organizational failures of coaching , supervision, hiring and promotion.” FBI Director Christopher Wray also testified at the hearing and apologized to the gymnasts for the FBI’s handling of the investigation. Wray became the FBI director in 2017.

“We got to remember the pain that occurred when our folks did not do their job,” he said, adding that the agency has implemented new training programs to make sure that the failure isn’t repeated. Durbin, who scolded the FBI in his opening statement for the agency’s “gross failures,” also expressed his frustration at the Department of Justice for its refusal to prosecute Abbott and therefore the unnamed agent overseeing the investigation. “The FBI’s handling of the Nassar case may be a stain on the bureau,” Durbin said. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the highest Republican on Judiciary, asked the gymnasts what other investigations the Senate should undertake.

“First of all, it’s not enough just to commend you for your bravery of speaking out, but by your speaking out, you’re helping out not only young women but wherever there could be the abuse you mention,” he said. “But many thanks for coming forward.” Raisman, an Olympic gold medalist, said that an independent investigation into USA Gymnastics, us Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and therefore the FBI is required so as to know “how and why USAG and USOPC chose to ignore abuse for many years and why the interplay among these three organizations led the FBI to willingly disregard our reports of abuse.”

“I and these women who sit before you now know firsthand these organizations and their public statements aren’t to be trusted,” she said. “Without knowing who knew what when we cannot identify all enablers or determine whether or not they still are in positions of power. We just can’t fix a drag we don’t understand—and we can’t understand the matter unless and until we’ve all the facts.”

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