Simone Biles Slams USA Gymnastics' Alleged Inaction Over Larry Nassar Abuse: 'You Had One Job'
The celebrated gymnast, 22, ripped USA Gymnastics for not looking out for her and her fellow athletes, weeks after a congressional investigation reportedly found that the organization “knowingly concealed” abuse by Nassar, a former doctor.
“We had one job. And we have done everything that they asked us for — even when we didn’t want to,” Biles said of competing, according to the Washington Post. “And they couldn’t do one damn job! You had one job; you literally had one job, and you couldn’t protect us!”
Nassar, who once served as the Team USA Gymnastics doctor, was sentenced to more than 175 years in prison in 2018 for sexual abuse.
Biles has said that she — along with her Olympic teammates Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and more than 150 other women — was one of his victims, accusing Nassar of abuse in a letter she shared to Twitter in January 2018.
At the time, the four-time Olympic gold medalist said she frequently questioned her role in the abuse and wondered if she should place the blame on herself for her naivety.
“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,” she wrote.
A year and a half after sending the tweet, Biles, who hopes to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, now says she will continue to publicly express her disappointment.
“We’re blessed to be given a [social media] platform so that people will hear. But it’s not easy coming back to the sport, coming back to the organization that has failed you,” she said, according to the Post. “I feel like every day is a reminder of what I went through and what I’m going through and how I’ve come out of it.”
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The Senate Commerce subcommittee wrapped a lengthy investigation into Nassar’s abuse in late July and concluded that his actions were “knowingly concealed” by USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee, according to NBC News.
The committee’s report said the organization “had opportunities to stop Nassar,” but did not, resulting in the sexual abuse of hundreds of woman and girls. (The organization denied such claims in a statement to NBC News in April 2018).
Regarding the investigation, Biles took particular issue with an instance in which an FBI agent looking into the claims thanked former president Steve Penny, who resigned in 2017, for a beer and a chat about a potential job.
“I try just not to think about it, but it is hard once you see the FBI even was in on it and drank with Steve Penny and stuff,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Did you guys really not like us that much that you couldn’t just do your job?’ At the end of the day, it’s really sad for us because it becomes a problem whenever we work with future people.”
Though the Nassar allegations and subsequent trial led to a serious shakeup in leadership (in addition to Penny, the entire board stepped down. His replacement also resigned after just nine months), Biles still has difficulty placing her trust in an organization that she says previously failed her.
“At this point, all we can do is have faith that they’ll have our back and do the right thing,” she said. “But at the end of the day, it’s just a ticking time bomb.”
Li Li Leung, president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, praised Biles in a statement to PEOPLE that also declared the organization’s intentions to foster a “safe, positive and encouraging environment.”
“Simone Biles is undoubtedly the best gymnast in the world and possibly of all time. She is an outstanding representative for gymnastics and the United States. We at USA Gymnastics have made a lot of progress in strengthening our athlete safety measures and putting our athletes first, but we know we have more to do,” the statement read.
“One of our goals is for our athletes to feel comfortable in speaking up and sharing their opinions, and we are listening to what they have to say. We will continue to work hard to demonstrate to Simone and all of our athletes, members, community and fans that we are working to foster a safe, positive and encouraging environment where athlete voices are heard. We join the rest of her fans and the sport in wishing her the best of success this week at the championships.”