A report by Benjamin Hoffman for the New York Times.
After having vocally supported her teammates as they publicly detailed the sexual abuse they endured, Simone Biles, one of the most decorated gymnasts in Olympic history, added her own name on Monday to the list of those who have accused Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar of sexual abuse.
“I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar,” Ms. Biles said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Please believe me when I say it was a lot harder to first speak those words out loud than it is now to put them on paper.”
Dr. Nassar, a former team doctor for both U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he was a faculty member, has been accused of sexual abuse by more than 130 women. Dr. Nassar, 54, was sentenced to 60 years in prison last month for a conviction related to child pornography, and he is awaiting additional sentencing after having pleaded guilty to one set of molestation charges, which could bring a life sentence. More criminal charges are likely to follow, and a group of accusers has also filed a civil case against him.
Among Dr. Nassar’s more prominent accusers are the Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney. Ms. Biles, who won four gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, including in the all-around event, is 20 years old and still squarely in her prime as a gymnast. She mentioned in her statement that her dream was to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Games, though she lamented that it would require training in the facilities where she says the abuse occurred.
In a statement provided to The Associated Press, U.S.A. Gymnastics said the organization was “heartbroken, sorry and angry” that Ms. Biles and other athletes had been harmed by Dr. Nassar.
“U.S.A. Gymnastics’ support is unwavering for Simone and all athletes who courageously came forward to share their experiences,” the organization’s statement said. “We are our athletes’ advocates. U.S.A. Gymnastics will continue to listen to our athletes and our members in our efforts of creating a culture of empowerment with a relentless focus on athlete safety every single day.”
Ms. Biles was fiercely protective of her teammates as they revealed their own abuse, and she stood by Ms. Raisman amid a brief controversy where Ms. Douglas seemed to criticize the victims before apologizing and adding her own name to the list. Ms. Biles’s statement explained what caused her to wait until months later to reveal her own allegations.
“For too long I’ve asked myself ‘Was I too naïve? Was it my fault?” she said in the statement. “I now know the answer to those questions. No. No, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, U.S.A.G. and others.”
Ms. Raisman was quick to praise Ms. Biles’s statement in a Twitter post of her own.
It was an Indianapolis Star investigation in 2016 that publicly revealed the allegations against Dr. Nassar that had led to his firing by U.S.A. Gymnastics in 2015. In September of that year, a Star report detailed the experiences of a pair of gymnasts who said that they had been sexually abused. Rachael Denhollander was named in the initial report, and Jamie Dantzscher later revealed herself as the second gymnast.
Since those initial allegations, the case against Dr. Nassar has exploded. It now includes gymnasts at all levels, with at least eight having been members of the United States national team, five of whom have competed in the Olympics.
As the legal case against Dr. Nassar has expanded, there has been a great deal of criticism of U.S.A. Gymnastics as well, with several of the victims accusing the organization of either negligence or complicity in the abuse. In a lawsuit against U.S.A. Gymnastics, Ms. Maroney claimed the organization had paid her to sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevented her from speaking out about the abuse; the organization responded by saying she and her lawyer had initiated the process rather than the other way around. In March 2017, Steve Penny resigned as president of U.S.A. Gymnastics.
The decades-worth of allegations against Dr. Nassar will likely take some time to sort out, but Ms. Biles’s statement included a call for the investigation to continue until some sort of resolution can be found for the victims.
“We need to know why this was able to take place for so long and to so many of us,” she said. “We need to make sure something like this never happens again.”