Simone Biles explains how abuse "burden" impacted her Olympics

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Photo credit: Fred Lee
Photo credit: Fred Lee

US gymnast Simone Biles has testified before the US Senate, speaking about the long-lasting impact of the abuse she suffered by Larry Nassar.

The Senate committee is examining shortcomings in the FBI's investigation into Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics team doctor who is serving a life sentence in jail for sexually abusing dozens of athletes under his care. The FBI is accused of failing to properly investigate allegations against Nassar.

Speaking at the hearing, Simone opened up about the "scars of this horrific abuse" and explained how it's been a "difficult burden to carry" while competing at this summer's Tokyo Olympics. At the games, Simone made global headlines when she withdrew from competition to prioritise her mental health.

“The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us … I worked incredibly hard to make sure that my presence could help maintain a connection between the failures [around the Nassar case] and the competition at Tokyo 2020,” Simone told members of the Senate.

“That has proven to be an exceptionally difficult burden for me to carry, particularly when required to travel to Tokyo without the support of any of my family. I am a strong individual and I will persevere, but I never should have been left alone to suffer the abuse of Larry Nassar. And the only reason I did, was because of the failures that lie at the heart of the abuse that you are now asked to investigate," she said.

Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images

“Nassar is where he belongs. Those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports,” she added.

A US justice department investigation found that Nassar was able to abuse up to 70 athletes for over a year after the FBI first learned of the allegations. It wasn't until September 2016 when Nassar was fired by his main employer, Michigan State University, after a police report was filed against him.

W Jay Abbott, the FBI agent in charge of the initial Nassar investigation, retired in 2018 and was not disciplined over his handling of the case. FBI director Christopher Wray appeared at the hearing attended by Simone, and admitted his agency had failed the survivors of Nassar’s abuse. “I want to be crystal clear: The actions and inaction of the FBI employees detailed in this report are totally unacceptable,” he said.

USA Gymnastics has announced a plan to pay a $215m (£164m) settlement to the athletes abused by Nassar. In February, Li Li Leung, the chief executive of USA Gymnastics, told CBS the organisation recognises “how deeply we have broken the trust of our athletes and community, and are working hard to build that trust back."

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