Olympic gymnasts testify as Congress digs deeper on Nassar abuse
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - “Since I was a child I always had a dream of competing for my country in the world championships and Olympic Games,” said former gymnast Maggie Nichols before Congress Wednesday.
Nichols is one of the most decorated college athletes in history.
Team USA superstar gymnast Simone Biles once called Nichols “the Michael Jordan of college gymnastics” for all she accomplished at Oklahoma University. Nichols sat alongside Biles at a hearing on Capitol Hill, recounting some of her darkest moments: abuse at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar.
“My family and I receive few answers and have even more questions about how this was allowed to occur and why dozens of other little girls and women at Michigan State had to be abused after I reported,” Nichols said.
Nichols was the first known athlete to alert USA Gymnastics about Nassar’s abuse in 2015. She was left off the 2016 USA Olympic team.
“From the day I reported my molestation, I was treated differently by USAG,” she said.
Nichols told USA Gymnastics officials in 2015 that Nassar abused her. The officials told the FBI in July of 2015 after a nearly five week delay, but it wasn’t until Nov. 2016 when Michigan authorities arrested Nassar on multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct — without help from the FBI.
U.S Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the FBI knew about claims against Nassar for nearly 17 months while he continued seeing gymnasts at Michigan State University, Holt High School [MI], and the Twistars USA Gymnastics Club.
“Nassar’s abuses could and should’ve been stopped sooner if appropriate action had been taken,” Horowitz said.
Horowitz said officials in the Indianapolis Field Office did not notify Michigan law enforcement about allegations against Nassar, did not properly file evidence including an interview with a gymnast who detailed Nassar’s abuse, filed inaccurate reports, and simply didn’t handle the investigation with the seriousness and urgency it deserved.
Horowitz said USA Gymnastics later went to the FBI field office in Los Angeles with the same accusations against Nassar in May 2016. He said that office handled its part of the investigation much more seriously than the Indianapolis office, but it too failed to alert law enforcement in Michigan.
“Approximately 70 or more young athletes were allegedly sexually abused by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment from July 2015 — when the FBI first received these allegations — until September 2016,” Horowitz said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray also spoke at the hearing and apologized to survivors of Nassar’s abuse, and assured he’s making changes to prevent a failure like this from happening again.
Wray was not in charge of the FBI at the time the bureau learned of Nassar’s abuse, and said he is implementing recommendations from the Inspector General.
Some survivors and Senators are calling for more, including criminal charges for the FBI agents who slow-walked the investigation.
Gray Television also reached out to USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for comment on today’s hearing.
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