Simone Biles has headed to Washington, D.C. to be heard.
Joined by fellow gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman, the 24-year-old Olympic gold medalist was first to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Sept. 15. The hearing focused on the FBI's handling of the investigation into former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who is currently serving up to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct in 2017. More than 200 survivors have accused him of sexual abuse under the guise of medical treatment.
"Thank you for the opportunity to share my story with this committee and for bringing light to the crisis of abuse in amateur sports," Biles began. "Your commitment to ensuring the safety of gymnasts and all amateur athletes is appreciated, important and necessary to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. Please bear with me. To be perfectly honest, I can imagine no place that I would be less comfortable right now than sitting here in front of your sharing these comments."
A seven-time Olympic medalist, Biles testified that she is a survivor of sexual abuse and called out USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee for their role in what she endured. "I believe without a doubt, that the circumstances that led to my abuse and allowed it to continue," she said, "are directly the result of the fact that the organizations created by Congress to oversee and protect me as an athlete, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, failed to do their jobs."
Biles became emotional as she spoke about "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."
"To be clear," Biles continued, "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."
She stated that Nichols told Rhonda Faehn, former Vice President of USA Gymnastics, in May 2015 that Nichols suspected Biles was a victim. Biles later competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, but didn't learn of the "magnitude" of Nassar's abuse scandal until an Indianapolis Star article was published months later that fall. "Yet, while I was a member of the 2016 US Olympic team, neither USAG, USOPC, nor the FBI ever contacted me or my parents," she said. "While others have been informed and investigations were ongoing, I had been left to wonder why I was not told until after the Rio Games."
The athlete placed blame USA Gymnastics and USOPC, along with the FBI, for failing to protect the athletes. "These are the entities entrusted with the protection of our sport and our athletes. And yet it feels like questions of responsibility and organizational failures remain unanswered," she told the committee of USAG and USOPC. "As you pursue the answers to those questions. I ask that your work be guided by the same question that [fellow Nassar survivor] Rachel Denhollander and many others have asked: How much is a little girl worth?"
"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 continued as she swallowed back tears. "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. Nassar is where he belongs, but 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."
Biles reiterated her criticism of the FBI, stating that it feels like the bureau "turned a blind eye to us and went out of its way to help protect USAG and USOPC." In a report released in July, Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the FBI failed to interview victims in a timely manner and that the Indianapolis field office made "fundamental errors" in not notifying other authorities or FBI officers, according to NBC News. The report further said the Indianapolis Field Office "provided incomplete and inaccurate information to make it appear that they had been diligent in responding to the sexual abuse allegations."
Biles urged, "A message needs to be sent. If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough."
As she concluded her statement, one of the most decorated gymnasts of all time turned inward, reflecting on how the abuse she suffered has continued to affect her life, including at the most recent summer games. "As the lone competitor in the recent Tokyo Games who is a survivor of this horror, I can ensure you that the impacts of this man's abuse are not ever over or forgotten. The announcement in the spring of 2020 that the Tokyo games were to be postponed for a year meant that I would be going to the gym, to training, to therapy, living daily among the reminders of this story for another 365 days," she explained. "As I have stated in the past, one thing that helped me push each and every day was the goal of not allowing this crisis to be ignored. I worked incredibly hard to make sure that my presence could maintain a connection between the failures and the competition at Tokyo 2020."
However, Biles, who ultimately withdrew from multiple finals during the competition, said, "that has proven to be exceptionally difficult burden for me to carry, particularly when when required to travel to Tokyo without the support of any of my family."
Despite all that she has has to overcome, "I am a strong individual and I will persevere," she said, "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."
E! News has sought comment from USA Gymnastics and USOPC regarding the athlete's remarks before Congress. In a statement issued to E! News in 2018, USA Gymnastics said it supported athletes who have shared their experiences with abuse and apologized that any athlete had been hurt by Nassar's crimes. "USA Gymnastics first became aware that an athlete had expressed concern about a procedure by Larry Nassar in June 2015, which led USA Gymnastics to report Nassar to the FBI and dismiss him from further involvement with USA Gymnastics," their statement read. "USA Gymnastics is committed to doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again by making bold decisions and holding ourselves to the highest standards of care. We need the gymnastics community to join with us to accomplish this for both the young men and women who are pursuing their gymnastics dreams today and to honor those who have gone before."