Simone Biles and Hoda Kotb both held back tears on Wednesday's Today as they discussed the sentencing of Larry Nassar — the disgraced USA Gymnastics team doctor who has been accused of sexual misconduct
Simone Biles and Hoda Kotb both held back tears on Wednesday’s Today as they discussed the sentencing of Larry Nassar — the disgraced USA Gymnastics team doctor who has been accused of sexual misconduct by over 150 women and girls, including Biles herself.
The decorated Olympian spoke candidly on the show, and thanked Judge Rosemarie Aquilina for her stern words and harsh sentence for Nassar, who faces up to 175 years behind bars.
“I think it’s very hard for someone to go through what I’ve gone through recently and it’s very hard to talk about,” Biles said, tears welling in her eyes. “But other than that, I think the judge is my hero only because she gave it to him straight and didn’t let him get any power over the girls. And letting the girls go and speak was very powerful … I was very happy. I wish she would have just given him a crazy number like 3,000 years or something, but other than that she was a boss and was absolutely amazing.”
Kotb appeared moved by Biles’ words.
“He can’t hurt you anymore,” she said.
“No, he cannot,” Biles said in response.
“Most of you know me as a happy, giggly, and energetic girl. But lately…I’ve felt a bit broken and the more I try to shut off the voice in my head the louder it screams. I am not afraid to tell my story anymore,” she wrote. “I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar. Please believe me when I say it was a lot harder to first speak those words out loud than it is now to put them on paper. There are many reasons that I have been reluctant to share my story, but I know now it is not my fault.”
Calling Nassar’s alleged behavior “completely unacceptable, disgusting, and abusive,” Biles noted in her letter that she was “told to trust” the disgraced physician. “For too long I’ve asked myself, ‘Was I too naive? Was it my fault?’ I now know the answers to those questions. No. No, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others.”
Asked on Today how she was able to perform knowing what Nassar had done to her, Biles explained gymnasts are “very good at compartmentalizing things.”
“We just kind of push it in the back of our heads because we don’t want anyone to think of that and we don’t want ourselves to think of that,” she said. “So once we go out there we go out there with a full heart and compete because that’s what we love to do and represent our country.”
Nassar pleaded guilty in November to several counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Last week, Aquilina of Michigan’s Ingham County Circuit Court sentenced the 54-year-old to 40 to 175 years in prison.
He back in court in another Michigan courtroom Wednesday for sentencing on similar charges in a similar case in a different county. The Associated Press reports that the judge in that case said 265 victims have come forward to claim abuse at the hands of Nassar.
In a previous statement, USA Gymnastics said that the organization “is very sorry that any athlete was harmed by Larry Nassar. Upon first learning of athlete concerns about Nassar in 2015, USA Gymnastics reported him to the FBI and relieved him of any involvement with USA Gymnastics … USA Gymnastics also views Nassar’s guilty plea as an important acknowledgment of his appalling and devious conduct that permits punishment without further victimization of survivors.”
RELATED VIDEO: Ex-USA Gymnastics Official Larry Nassar is Sentenced for Sexually Abusing Over 100 Young Women and Girls
The United States Olympic Committee officials also issued an apology to Nassar’s victims, after asking all remaining members of the USA Gymnastics board of directors to resign.
“The purpose of this message is to tell all of Nassar’s victims and survivors, directly, how incredibly sorry we are,” CEO Scott Blackmun said in the statement. “We have said it in other contexts, but we have not been direct enough with you. We are sorry for the pain caused by this terrible man, and sorry that you weren’t afforded a safe opportunity to pursue your sports dreams.”
Meanwhile, gymnasts like Rasiman have been vocal that they haven’t heard directly from USA Gymnastics.
Asked about it on Today, Biles revealed the new USA Gymnastics president Kerry Perry flew down to see her for a visit.
“We didn’t talk of any of that discussion, but she just wanted to introduce herself because I am the only one back in the gym so far,” Biles said. “So she reached out to me, but other than that, [USA Gymnastics] has not reached out. I’m one of their top athletes advocating for not only gymnastics but also for the Olympics. I think it’s kind of crazy but hopefully they’ll reach out.”
USA Gymnastics released a new statement on Tuesday, saying the organization “fully supports the Congressional legislation that provides additional protections for athletes throughout the U.S. Olympic movement. USA Gymnastics has already implemented new policies and procedures under the USA Gymnastics Safe Sport Policy, and we believe this legislation will enable additional, meaningful policies focused on athlete safety.
Along with many Congressional leaders, USA Gymnastics admires the courageous women who shared their deeply personal experiences in the sentencing of Larry Nassar last week. Their powerful voices and stories will guide our future decisions. We are committed to creating a culture that empowers and supports our athletes, and we hope everything we do going forward makes this very clear.”