Nassar and the National Team
Allegations against then team doctor Larry Nassar began in 2015 when McKayla Maroney stepped forward to report the abuse to Olympics officials and FBI agents. In addition to denial from officials, the FBI officer who took Maroney’s call was apathetic at best.
Maroney is not the only victim of Nassar’s years-long pattern of abuse. Most members of the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams have testified and/or corroborated the claims of sexual abuse. Officials representing the national team covered up and enabled the abuse while investigators failed to take the claims seriously.
As a result, the team members paid the price. Now the case of Larry Nassar and the U.S. Gymnastics Team is one of the biggest child sex abuse cases in American history.
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“Heartsick and Furious”
The FBI did not record Maroney’s initial report until much later and continued to disregard the case until it had reached the national media. When Maroney’s testimony was finally recorded, the agency falsified her story. Maroney says,
“They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.”
FBI director, Christopher A. Wray has not only acknowledged the agency’s failure to protect the victims but also fired an agent who was responsible for silencing the case early on. He has gone on to agree to public questioning about the agency’s failure – a remarkable move that is unprecedented in the FBI’s history.
Director Wray says that he was “heartsick and furious” at the blatant apathy and failure of the agency before he took the helm. He has been very clear about his intentions to keep the agency accountable in addition to strengthening policies and procedures for investigations in the future.
Members of the Senate committee responsible for hearing the case aren’t satisfied with Director Wray’s statements. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont voiced his disappointment and pointed out that regardless of the changes happening now, this case represents a failure to bring justice to the case which ultimately endangered hundreds of young women and girls.
Many of Senator Leahy’s fellow committee members feel outraged that the agents responsible for this massive failure haven’t been prosecuted. To them, not punishing the agents is the same as turning a blind eye to Nassar’s abuse.
The hearing before the Senate committee comes after a Justice report criticizing the FBI and its handling of many cases, including the U.S. Gymnastics Team case. The report points out that the failure of the FBI to prosecute the case allowed Nassar to continue to molest over 70 girls during his tenure at the national team and as a consulting doctor at a local high school and Michigan State University.
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Biles, a world-renowned gymnast, and global icon was among the countless victims of Nassar’s reign of terror. She has called for justice for herself and teammates and explored the committee to investigate the FBI to determine who had knowledge of the scandal and why they didn’t report it.
She also spoke on the long-term effects of the abuse. Despite winning a silver and bronze medal in the 2020 Olympic games, Biles struggled with her mental health and dropped out of the games to get some space from the pressure to perform.
Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Maggie Nichols, and others have called for an independent investigation.
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While it’s unclear how the Senate committee will handle the FBI and its failure to protect victims of horrific abuse, one thing is certain: these mistakes cannot go unpunished.
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