WASHINGTON (CBS/CNN) — Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKalya Maroney ripped the FBI and the Justice Department in Senate testimony Wednesday for how FBI agents mishandled abuse allegations brought against Larry Nassar and then made false statements in the fallout from the botched investigation.
Maroney, Biles, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman were assaulted by Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor who is now serving a several-decade prison sentence.
“It truly feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us and went out of its way to help protect” USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Biles testified while holding back tears.
Raisman, a Needham native, called for more investigation into how the Nassar probe was mishandled and said that the FBI pressured her to accept Nassar’s plea deal.
“The agent diminished the significance of my abuse. It made me feel my criminal case wasn’t worth pursuing,” Raisman said.
Aly Raisman testifies about the failures by FBI and athletic officials to investigate Larry Nassar: "A survivor's healing is affected by the handling of their abuse. It disgusts me that we are still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability over six years later." pic.twitter.com/BMR52fwy6i
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 15, 2021
Allegations into Nassar were first brought to the agency in July 2015. Several violations of protocols led to months of delay, as captured in a scathing Justice Department inspector general report released in July.
While the federal investigation languished, Nassar abused scores of victims, the inspector general report said.
FBI officials “failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required, made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and violated multiple FBI policies,” the report stated.
Read Raisman’s entire opening statement before Congress below:
I want to begin by thanking the Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Durbin and Ranking Member Grassley, for their commitment to seeking the truth for the hundreds, if not thousands who were systematically abused by Larry Nassar, and for this Committee’s diligence to demand accountability regarding Federal Law enforcement’s misconduct.
I also want to express my gratitude to the other brave survivors here today, my friends and teammates, for sharing their stories and continuing to press for justice and reform. Over the past few years, it has become painfully clear how a survivor’s healing is affected by the handling of their abuse, and it disgusts me that we are still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability over six years later.
In 2015 it was known that a least six National Team athletes had been abused by Nassar. There was even a video of one athlete’s abuse. Given our abusers unfettered access to children, stopping him should have been a priority.
Instead the following occurred…
• The FBI failed to interview pertinent parties in a timely manner. It took over 14 months for the FBI to contact me despite my many requests to be interviewed by them.
• The records established that Steve Penny, FBI agent Jay Abbott and their subordinates worked to conceal Nassar’s crimes.
• 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 I was aware he was there.
• I felt pressured by the FBI to consent to Nassar’s plea deal. The agent diminished the significance of my abuse and made me feel my criminal case wasn’t worth pursuing.
• Special agent in charge of investigating Nassar met Steve Penny for beers to discuss job opportunities in the Olympic movement.
• Another FBI agent worked with Steve Penny to determine jurisdiction without interviewing the survivors.
• I’ve watched multiple high ranking officials at USAG, USOPC, and the FBI, resign or “retire” without explanation of how they may have contributed to the problem, some of whom were publicly thanked for their service and rewarded with severance or bonus money.
My reports of abuse were not only buried by USAG and USOPC but they were also mishandled by Federal Law enforcement officers who failed to follow their most basic duties. The FBI and others within both USAG and USOPC knew that Nassar molested children and did nothing to restrict his access. 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.
Instead they quietly allowed Nassar to slip out the side door, knowingly allowing him to continue his “work” at MSU, Sparrow Hospital, a USAG club, and even to run for school board. Nassar found more than 100 new victims to molest. It was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter.
Why did none of these organizations warn anyone? USAG and USOPC have a long history of enabling abuse by turning a blind eye. Both organizations knew of Nassar’s abuse long before it became public, although you wouldn’t know that by reading their press releases which would have you (and their corporate sponsors) believe that athlete safety comes first. We have called for a fully independent factual investigation for years now, because I and these women who sit before you now know firsthand these organizations and their public statements are not to be trusted. They claim they want accountability but then seek to restrict which staff can be interviewed, which documents can be examined, and claim attorney client privilege over and over again. The so-called investigations these organizations orchestrated were not designed to provide the answers we so critically need.
Why are we left to guess why USAG and USOPC deliberately ignored reported abuse? Was it to protect the value of the sponsorships? The LA28 bid? Their own jobs? To avoid criminal liability? Perhaps, but why must we speculate when the facts are obtainable and the stakes are so high?
Why would duly sworn Federal Law enforcement officers ignore reports of abuse by a doctor across state lines and country borders? For a future job opportunity? Or were there additional incentives and pressures? Why must we speculate when the facts are obtainable and the stakes are so high?
Just as it is naive to assume the problem rests only with Nassar, it is unrealistic to think we can grasp the full extent of culpability without understanding how and why USAG and USOPC chose to ignore abuse for decades and why the interplay among these three organizations led the FBI to willingly disregard our reports of abuse. Without knowing who knew what when, we cannot identify all enablers or determine whether they still are in positions of power. We just can’t fix a problem we don’t understand—and we can’t understand the problem unless and until we have all the facts. If we don’t do all we can to get these facts the problems we are here to address will persist and we are deluding
ourselves if we think other children can be spared the institutionalized tolerance and normalization of abuse that I, and so many had to endure.
I thank you for your time, your commitment and your genuine concern for those survivors who relied on the FBI to do the right thing. I welcome any questions and comments and will answer them to the best of my ability.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN’s Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.)