United States Olympic gymnast Simone Biles blasted USA Gymnastics and the FBI for standing by while team doctor Larry Nassar assaulted her and hundreds of other athletes in the largest sexual abuse case in the history of American sports.
“We have been failed and we deserve answers,” Biles said in blunt and tearful testimony at a US Senate public hearing on Wednesday where she appeared with three other athletes, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols.
The FBI’s negligence when dealing with sexual assault claims against Larry Nasar will have two main effects.
Firstly, it significantly damages their reputation
US Gymnast McKayla Maroney said that FBI agents dismissed her complaints and went as far as falsifying them in the interest of protecting a well-respected and established Olympic doctor. Fellow gymnast Aly Raisman raised similar concerns to the senate panel stating that “the agent diminished the significance of [her] abuse.” These damning allegations greatly stain the FBI’s reputation and call into question the organisation’s integrity. Turning a blind eye to the sexual abuse of minors is arguably more than just neglect on the part of the FBI, it’s indicative of how women who are victims of sexual assault are not taken seriously in general. To have one of the most powerful national security organisations in the world write off such heinous criminal activity undoubtedly jeopardises the safety of women in America. If the FBI failed the most respected and celebrated athletes in the world, how can the organisation claim to provide regular women with the security they deserve?
Secondly, we need to consider what this means for the Olympic team and athletes in general.
American Olympic gymnasts are expected to represent the USA to the best of their ability. This responsibility includes training at facilities provided by USA gymnastics including the Karolyi Ranch – the conditions of which were described to be “disgusting” by various Olympic gymnasts including Aly Raisman. In return, USA gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee have a responsibility to nurture and care for their athletes. US gymnastics’ failure to safeguard the individuals placed under their care has some serious implications when it comes to continuing the USA’s dominance in the sport of gymnastics. The relationship between current athletes and the committee is riddled with mistrust. If athletes are not afforded the necessary protection needed to keep them safe and cultivate their talent and conditioning, significant problems lie ahead for those looking to compete and win at the Olympic level.