Official USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar systematically abused hundreds of girls and women, and he was finally charged in 2016 with federal child pornography offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan. Nassar pled guilty in 2017, but gymnasts believe that Nassar isn’t the only one to be held accountable. Olympic gymnasts’ September 2021 testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee made it clear that others enabled Nassar’s behavior, including USA Gymnastics (the governing body of the Olympics gymnastics program), the FBI and others.
- Gold medalist Simone Biles claimed that Nassar was enabled by an “entire system” to get away with abuse. “I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” adding that they “knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge.”
- Gymnast Aly Raisman called for an investigation of FBI and others for dismissing athletes’ accusation, saying the agent diminished her claims, saying they “weren’t worth pursuing.”
- Gymnast McKayla Maroney claimed that FBI agents dismissed and minimized her complaints and even falsified them.
Despite complaints going back years, Nassar was allowed to continue until finally getting arrested. Unfortunately, the trauma caused by him still impacts his victims — Simone Biles said it was a root cause for her withdrawing from the team competition in Tokyo earlier this summer.
Inspector general confirms FBI’s mishandling
In July, the Justice Department’s inspector general already confirmed the gymnasts’ allegation that the FBI did not take gymnasts’ complaints seriously. It is further supported by USA Gymnastics conducting its own investigation in 2015 before organization president Stephen Penny turned findings over to the local FBI field office in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, it took months before the bureau opened a formal investigation. When the bureau did open their investigation, investigators made several fundamental errors and also violated official policy. These included:
- Not finding USA Gymnastics President Stephen Penny a credible source when he brought the findings to the FBI
- Claiming that the abuse did not happen in the field office’s jurisdiction
- The head of the Indianapolis field office asked Penny about an Olympic Committee job
- The head of the field office minimized errors and lied to the inspector general during the subsequent investigation
Litigation may soon end
On August 31, 2021, USA Gymnastics (which filed bankruptcy in 2018) and the hundreds of victims filed a $425 million settlement proposal in Bankruptcy Court in Indianapolis. The investigation on the handling of the abuse allegations could go on for some time.