Content warning: mentions of sexual abuse, mentions of child pornography
In 1986, former doctor Larry Nassar joined the USA Gymnastics national medical team where he proceeded to sexually abuse over 500 girls and women under the pretense of medical treatment. On January 24, 2018, Nassar was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to 40–175 years in federal prison as well as 60 years after pleading guilty to possessing child pornography.
Unfortunately, the damages caused by Nassar are still felt by the hundreds of gymnasts that were subjected to his abuse. It is for this reason that about 100 gymnasts, including Olympic medalists Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, are now suing the FBI for over $1 billion for failure to conduct a proper investigation and bring Nassar to justice.
The USAG contacted the FBI office in Indianapolis about Nassar’s abuse in 2015. The FBI conducted interviews with several of the victims including Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney. After speaking with Maroney in the summer of 2015, the FBI refused to report her abuse and instead, willingly waited 17 months to document falsified claims of what Maroney spoke about. “They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only [me] but countless others,” Maroney claims. At the Senate Judiciary hearing on the Larry Nassar abuse investigation, Maroney describes her disgust towards the FBI’s neglectful choice to “not only minimize [her] abuse, but silence [her] yet again.” After having the courage to share her story, Maroney hoped that the FBI would take immediate action given the severity of the case. Instead, over 70 other young women continued to suffer abuse in the 14 months that it took the FBI to report the crimes committed by Nassar.
Seven years later, survivors still have to deal with the aftermath of Nassar’s abuse. In light of the current $1 billion lawsuit against the FBI, people question why the victims would choose to go through all of this again and argue that the purpose of this case is strictly monetary. However, Simone Biles and many other gymnasts explain that while “Nassar is where he belongs, […] those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, [Biles is] convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.” Nassar is certainly not the only one who has used his title as a medical doctor to inflict abuse on athletes, but the FBI is also responsible for its negligence.
Countless athletes ranging from a variety of different sports are subjected to several kinds of abuse from a young age. Biles sheds light on this aspect by saying that “all those years, nobody ever told us what sexual abuse was.” Abuse is so deep-rooted in sports, including gymnastics, that athletes often don’t know what’s happening to them for years. Stopping this at the source—institutions such as the FBI and USAG—is the only way to ensure that the decades of mistreatment never repeat themselves.
Justice delayed is justice denied and the FBI’s blatant disregard to recognize the urgency of this case stripped hundreds of girls and women who suffered years of sexual abuse of a speedy and fair resolution. The FBI was established to protect American citizens and because of their unacceptable neglect towards the investigation of Larry Nassar, these women sustained extended periods of abuse and damage. It is imperative that this case sets a precedent so that gymnasts and other athletes in the future will never have to face this.