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Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney won gold for the US in gymnastics but were ignored or dismissed by the country’s justice system for too long before Larry Nassar, the predator volunteering as a doctor for USA Gymnastics and working at Michigan State University, was put behind bars.
The gymnasts, who included US world championship team alum Maggie Nichols, told lawmakers in agonizing detail about their abuse by Nassar and how he had been able to continue after the FBI botched the first complaints made by Maroney in 2015.
Because the FBI did not follow up, Nassar’s molestation of gymnasts went on, even after more complaints were made. Maroney was already a gold medal-winning gymnast at that point. How did that not create more alarm at the FBI?
What does it mean for victims who aren’t Olympic medalists?
When agents from Indianapolis finally did file a report on Maroney’s allegations, they botched that, too, relying on a page of notes and their memories. Maroney said the agents “made entirely false claims about what I said.”
An inspector general report this year agreed, and accused agents in Indianapolis of failing to properly investigate complaints, failing for more than a year to write a report on an interview in which Maroney had detailed her abuse and then lying to cover up their failures.
“After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented the report, 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” she said.
The agent in charge of the Indianapolis office at the time, Jay Abbott, who actually wanted to apply for a job at USA Gymnastics after the Nassar scandal broke, has since retired. The agent who failed to follow up on Maroney’s accusations, Michael Langeman, was fired last week, before the women testified Wednesday. (Langeman declined to comment to The Washington Post on Tuesday.)
But lawmakers and the gymnasts would prefer criminal prosecutions, something the Justice Department, under both Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump, has so far declined to pursue.
FBI Director Christopher Wray apologized, profusely, on Wednesday for the agency’s failure.
“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. It never should have happened, and we’re doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again,” Wray said.
All the women said that either they or people they knew had been molested in the 17 months during which the FBI had failed to act.
Here’s a detailed timeline of those failures published alongside the FBI Office of the Inspector General report. It also suggested policy changes.
“We have been failed, and we deserve answers,” said Biles.