On September 15, 2021, former elite gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Mckayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols testified against the FBI agents involved in the cover up of the Larry Nassar scandal. The initial investigation, which began in 2014, ended with Nassar pleading guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with minors under the age of sixteen in 2017. Sadly, the only issues at play were not by the hands of the once beloved gymnastics doctor.
“I believe that without a doubt, the circumstances that led to my abuse and allowed it to continue are directly the result of the fact that the organizations created by Congress to oversee and protect me as an athlete, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic committee failed to do their jobs,” Biles said in her testimony.
This case has truly turned the gymnastics world upside down. From a public relations standpoint, there really is no reputation left to protect. The instance has turned many people away from joining the sport. All eyes are now on USAG and the Olympic Committee to do what’s right.
The first known instance of the abuse came from 2015 World Champion and Oklahoma University aluma, Maggie Nichols. She came forward about the abuse to her parents, who immediately called it to the attention of Martha and Bela Karolyi. The Karolyi’s were famous for training Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci, and were on the US Olympic Committee until 2016, when the scandal first broke. In June 2020, the Netflix documentary “Athlete A” was released, recounting it all. “It didn’t happen to “Athlete A,” it happened to me,” Nichols said.
Former Senior Vice President of USAG, Steve Penny, is also a huge contributing factor to the neglect of these women, as he himself covered up much of the abuse. He pleaded the fifth, deciding not to comment when asked by the media.
A significant number of victims were objectified at the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville Texas, where many Olympic training camps were held, as well as internationally at competitions. In her testimony on September 15th, Maroney said that the FBI agents who failed to report her abuse for seventeen months, made false claims about what happened to her.
Raisman is especially heartbroken by the results of this investigation stating that it is harder to heal when the legal system neglects their jobs. “We deserve Justice,” Maroney added.
It is truly heartbreaking that the entire organization has to suffer because of the corrupt people in charge. This negative press will most certainly haunt gymnastics for many years to come. It wasn't just Nassar, Penny or the Karolyi’s who are responsible for the pain these girls are suffering. A thorough investigation of everyone on staff at USAG and the Olympic Committee as well as the officers and other people involved in this case needs to be conducted, otherwise nothing will change.
Claire Mountcastle is a junior from Anderson, Indiana, majoring in public relations and minoring in journalism. Mountcastle is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.