WASHINGTON (AP) — Olympic gymnasts testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday, calling for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to be held accountable in the handling of the Larry Nassar investigation.
"I don't want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured before, during and continuing to this day in the wake of the Larry Nassar abuse," Olympic gymnast Simone Biles said. "To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse. USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge."
"I sit before you today to raise my voice so that no little girl must endure what I, the athletes at this table, and the countless others who needlessly suffered under Nassar's guise of medical treatment, which we continue to endure today," Biles said. "We suffered and continue to suffer because no one at FBI, USAG or the USOPC did what was necessary to protect us. We have been failed and we deserve answers."
The testimony given before the Senate Judiciary Committee comes after the Justice Department's inspector general revealed in July that the FBI made "fundamental" errors in investigating sexual abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar and did not treat the case with the "utmost seriousness."
More athletes said they were molested before the FBI swung into action.
The FBI acknowledged conduct that was "inexcusable and a discredit" to America's premier law enforcement agency and all.
The long-awaited watchdog report raises troubling questions about how the department and the FBI handled the case and it highlights major missteps at the FBI between the time the allegations were first reported and Nassar's arrest.
The inspector general's investigation was spurred by allegations that the FBI failed to promptly address complaints made in 2015 against Nassar. USA Gymnastics had conducted its own internal investigation and then the organization's then-president, Stephen Penny, reported the allegations to the FBI's field office in Indianapolis. But it took months before the bureau opened a formal investigation.
At least 40 girls and women said they were molested over a 14-month period while the FBI was aware of other sexual abuse allegations involving Nassar. Officials at USA Gymnastics also contacted FBI officials in Los Angeles in May 2016 after eight months of inactivity from agents in Indianapolis.
The inspector general's office found that "despite the extraordinarily serious nature" of the claims against Nassar, FBI officials in Indianapolis did not respond with the "utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and required."
When they did respond, the report said, FBI officials made "numerous and fundamental errors" and also violated bureau policies.
Among the missteps was a failure to conduct any investigative activity until more than a month after a meeting with USA Gymnastics. Agents interviewed by phone one of three athletes, but never spoke with two other gymnasts despite being told they were available to meet.
The watchdog investigation also found that when the FBI's Indianapolis field office's handling of the matter came under scrutiny, officials there did not take any responsibility for the missteps and gave incomplete and inaccurate information to internal FBI inquiries to make it look like they had been diligent in their investigation.