July 30, 2020 | News | No Comments
She was America’s Olympic sweetheart – a bubbly and ferociously talented athlete who brought home four gold medals from Rio, leading many to consider her the country’s greatest ever gymnast.
Yet on Monday Simone Biles, 20, made the bombshell accusation that she too had been sexually abused by former Team USA gymnastics sports doctor Larry Nassar.
Nassar, currently serving a 60-year jail sentence for having child sex abuse images on his computer, will on Tuesday face some of the 140 women who accuse him of abuse, as his sentencing begins in a Michigan courtroom. In what is expected to be a week-long court session, 88 of the women and girls who say Nassar sexually abused them are scheduled to give victim-impact statements.
And on the eve of sentencing, Biles published on Twitter a devastating account of the abuse she suffered, revealing for the first time that she – like her team mate Gabby Douglas, who won gold with Biles in the team event in Rio – was a victim of Nassar.
"I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar," wrote Biles.
"Most of you know me as a happy, giggly and energetic girl. But lately I’ve felt broken and the more I try to shut off the voice in my head the louder it screams. I am not afraid to tell my story any more.
"For too long I have asked myself, ‘Was I too naive? Was it my fault?’ I now know the answers 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, USAG [USA Gymnastics], and others."
Ohio-born Biles had captivated America with her story of triumph over adversity.
Feelings… 💭 #MeToo pic.twitter.com/ICiu0FCa0n
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) January 15, 2018
Abandoned by her father and neglected by her drug-addict mother, she was raised by her grandparents, who noticed her gymnastic showmanship at an early age. Her precocious talent saw her catapult to stardom: companies including Nike, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s and United Airlines all signed her up to advertise their products. Next month a biopic of her life will air on US channel Lifetime.
And her accusations will fuel the fire engulfing USAG.
The organisation has been strongly criticised by some its biggest stars, including Olympians Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, who say that after they told a private investigator about their sessions with Nassar, the organization tried to keep them quiet.
“@USAGym STOP VICTIM SHAMING. Your statements are hurtful,” tweeted Raisman last week.
“If you did not believe that I & others were abused than why pressure & manipulate us? WE WERE MOLESTED BY A MONSTER U ENABLED 2 THRIVE FOR DECADES. You are 100% responsible. It was mandatory to get "treatment" by Nassar.”
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The group’s president, Steve Penny, was forced out last year because of the handling of the Nassar allegations and other sexual abuse cases, but some have demanded a complete housecleaning of leadership. USA Gymnastics has beefed up its protocols for handling misconduct complaints.
In a statement issued in November, USA Gymnastics said it was “appalled by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused,” and “very sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career.”
The organisation said it was hiring a new president and chief executive officer “who emphasizes empowerment throughout the organization” as well adopting a Safe Sport Policy to strengthen “policies that include mandatory reporting.”
Biles’ statement follows similar disclosures from three members of the 2012 "Fierce Five" team —Maroney, Raisman and Douglas.
They are not expected to be at Nassar’s sentencing, but 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher will testify at the marathon hearing.
"What people need to understand is these aren’t just anonymous people," said Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar in the summer of 2016.
"These were real little girls, some of them as young as six years old.
"These were real young women who are suffering devastating consequences now and this could have been avoided."