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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Byers: The FBI “turns a blind eye” to reports of gymnast abuse


Washington (Associated Press)-Olympic gold medalist Simone Byers told Congress in strong testimony on Wednesday that federal law enforcement and gymnastics officials dealt with U.S. gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar against her and hundreds of other women. The sexual abuse turned a blind eye.

Byers told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “enough is enough” because she and three other American gymnasts were emotional when they talked about the lasting loss of Naxal’s crimes to their lives. In response, FBI Director Christopher Wray said he “deeply apologized” for the delay in Naxal’s prosecution and the pain it caused.

The four-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion-widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time-said she “can’t imagine that I am more uncomfortable anywhere now than sitting in front of you.” Claiming to be a survivor of sexual abuse.

“I blame Larry Naxal, and I also blame the entire system for inducing and carrying out his abuse,” Byers said in tears. In addition to the failure of the FBI, she said that the United States Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee “knowing that I was abused by their official team doctors long before I realized their knowledge.”

Byers said a message needs to be sent: “If predators are allowed to harm children, the consequences will be rapid and serious. It will be enough.”

The hearing is part of Congress’ efforts to hold the FBI accountable after multiple errors in investigating the case, including delays that led to the abuse of other young gymnasts by Nassar, who is now in prison. All four witnesses stated that after the FBI learned of the allegations against Nassar in 2015, they knew girls or women who had been sexually harassed by Nassar.

An internal investigation released by the Department of Justice in July revealed that after the United States Gymnastics team first reported the allegations to the FBI’s Indianapolis field office in 2015, the FBI made a fundamental error in the investigation and did not take it as “extremely serious”. Attitude” to handle the case. The FBI admits that its actions are unforgivable.

Ray slammed his own agents for failing to respond appropriately to the complaint and promised the victims that he was committed to “making sure that everyone at the FBI remembers what happened here” and that it would never happen again.

Ray said that a supervisory agent of the FBI failed to properly investigate the Naxal case and later lied to him and was fired by the agency.

McKayla Maroney (McKayla Maroney), a member of the United States Olympic gymnastics team who won the gold medal in 2012, told the senator one night when she was 15 years old when she was naked and found that the doctor was pressing on her— This is the first time she has been abused many times. She said she thought she was going to die that night. But she said that when she recalled those memories on the phone with FBI agents, she cried, “death silence.”

Maroni said the FBI “minimized and ignored” her and other gymnasts when it delayed the investigation.

“I think all of us have questioned for a long time, just because others have not fully verified us, we doubt what happened to us,” Maroni said. “And I think it will make the healing process take longer.”

Biles and Maroney together with Aly Raisman and gymnast Maggie Nichols won gold medals with them at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Lesman told the senators that six years after the initial charges against Naxal were reported, they were still looking for answers, which made her “disgusted.”

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Raisman pointed to the traumatic effects of abuse on all of them.

“Being here today means everything I have,” she said. “My main concern is that I want me to have the energy to get out of here. I don’t think people realize how much it affects us.”

After the hearing, Reisman spoke with the senators, calling for more investigations of the US gymnastics team, Olympic officials and the FBI. She said these investigations should be independent, dating back decades, because there may still be some people in power who should be held accountable.

Byers admitted in January 2018 that she was one of hundreds of athletes abused by Naxal. She was the only witness to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (held this year after a year postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic), where she removed herself from the team finals to focus on her mental health .

She returned with a bronze medal on the crossbar, but told the committee that the lingering trauma caused by her abuse at Naxal’s hands was a factor in her decision to withdraw from several games. At the hearing, she said that she hopes her presence in Tokyo “helps keep the link between the failure of officials and the Olympic games”, but “it turns out that this is a particularly unbearable burden for me.”

Democratic and Republican senators expressed disgust at the case and said they would continue to investigate. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin (Richard Durbin) said this is one of the most convincing and heartbreaking testimonies he has ever heard.

“We have work to do, and we know that,” Durbin said.

Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas called Naxal a “monster” and wanted to know how many other abusers escaped the law, because in this case, even world-class athletes Also ignored.

The Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who testified with Ray, was accused of an internal investigation that the FBI failed to process the 2015 complaint against Nassar in a timely manner. The United States Gymnastics team has conducted its own internal investigation, and the organization’s then president Stephen Penny reported the allegations to the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis. But a few months before the bureau began its formal investigation.

The investigation by the supervisory agency found that when the FBI’s Indianapolis field office was under review for its handling of the matter, the officials there did not bear any responsibility for these errors, but provided incomplete and incomplete information to the FBI’s internal investigation. Accurate information to make it look like they have been working hard. survey.

The report also details that while the FBI was investigating the Nassar allegations, W. Jay Abbott, the head of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, was discussing with Penny about getting a job with the Olympic Committee. According to reports, he applied for the job but did not get it, and later retired from the FBI.

Nassar pleaded guilty to federal child pornography and sexual abuse charges in Michigan in 2017. Hundreds of girls and women said he had sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment while working for Michigan State University and the American gymnastics team based in Indiana. He is now serving decades in prison. Linpis athlete.

After the American Gymnastics Association and hundreds of Nassar victims filed a $425 million joint settlement proposal in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Indianapolis last month, the abuse litigation may soon be over.


Graves reports from Pittsburgh.

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