USA Gymnastics Failed to Tell Simone Biles They Were Investigating Larry Nassar
In 2015, Steve Penny, the former chief executive of USA Gymnastics, had his organization contact the FBI over reports of sexual abuse by their long-time doctor Larry Nassar. But the Wall Street Journal reports that while Penny knew that Simone Biles was among the first to say that Nassar’s actions had made her uncomfortable, Penny never submitted Biles’s name to the FBI. Instead, other members of Team USA, including Aly Raisman, were offered up as martyrs and targets in what would be years of publicly reliving their trauma in the case against Larry Nassar. No one from USAG would speak to Biles about her experiences being abused by Nassar, according to the WSJ, until after she tweeted about it in 2018.
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USAG was informed of Nassar’s behavior on July 24, 2015, and was advised to make a report to law enforcement by Fran Sepler, a private investigator retained by USAG after gymnast Maggie Nichols told the head of the women’s program that Nassar had massaged her groin “too close to her vagina to treat a knee injury.” Nichols also mentioned in her initial conversation that other gymnasts also had “expressed doubts” about Nassar, according to the WSJ, and specifically named Biles and Raisman. Yet the organization chose not to make an immediate report, waiting until two weeks after speaking to Sepler to alert the FBI, all the while using her as a show trophy for USAG, sending her out on press events, including one at Penny’s country club, where she met with his daughter’s gymnastics group.
On Tuesday, July 28, Penny had an in-person meeting with FBI agents regarding Nassar, which resulted in McKayla Maroney being interviewed by the Bureau six weeks later. But Simone Biles did not get an FBI interview until August of 2016 after she and the Final Five returned from Rio. Between 2015 and August 2016, Penny had not once mentioned to Biles that Nassar was being investigated, according to the WSJ.
Simone Biles—an elite gymnast, a Nike athlete, a champion so great there is a move named after her—carried the weight of USAG and Team USA on her shoulders and succeeded at every turn. She’s been an inspiration to millions. But when it was most important, the people put in place to support her were not up to the task. Earlier this year, Biles told reporters, “We had one goal, and we’ve done everything that they’ve asked us for, even when we didn’t want to, and they couldn’t do one damn job.”