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Simone Biles speaks out about the lasting toll Larry Nassar’s abuse has had on her life

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Lauren Geall
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Simone Biles

Speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into the FBI’s handling of the Larry Nassar case, USA gymnast Simone Biles detailed how the sexual abuse she endured has impacted her life.

Warning: the following article contains reference to sexual abuse.

Simone Biles has spoken out about the lasting toll her sexual abuse at the hands of former USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar has had on her life.

Speaking in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who are examining shortcomings in the FBI’s investigation into Larry Nassar, Biles explained how the impact of the abuse had affected her during her time at the Tokyo Olympic Games, where she withdrew from five events for mental health reasons.  

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“The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us,” she said. “As the lone competitor in the recent Tokyo Games who was a survivor of this horror, I can assure you that the impacts of this man’s abuse are not ever over or forgotten.

“The announcement in the Spring of 2020 that the Tokyo Games were to be postponed for a year meant that I would be going to the gym, to training, to therapy, living daily among the reminders of this story for another 365 days.”

She continued: “I worked incredibly hard to make sure that my presence could maintain a connection between the failures and the competition at Tokyo 2020. That has proven to be an exceptionally difficult burden for me to carry – particularly when required to travel to Tokyo without the support of any of my family.” 

Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Simone Biles
Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols also spoke at the hearing.

Elsewhere in her statement, Biles said she blamed the organisations designed to protect her and her fellow athletes for allowing the abuse to take place and continue.

“I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” she told the committee. “USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew that I was abused by their official team doctor before I was ever made aware of their knowledge.

“I sit before you today to raise my voice so that no little girl must endure what I, the athletes at this table and the countless others who needlesly suffered under Nassar’s guise of medical treatment, which we continue to endure today.” 

Biles – who grew tearful several times during her statement – spoke at the hearing alongside her former teammates Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols – all of whom were also victims of Nassar’s abuse.

Indicating the impact the abuse had had on her and her fellow athletes’ mental health, Raisman said: “I don’t think people realise how much it affects us, how much the PTSD, how much the trauma impacts us.

“There are times where I feel like I forget what I’m saying. I feel like my mind isn’t working. I feel like I have no energy at all. I’m 27 years old and my 80-year-old grandfather has more energy than I do.”

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Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 2017 on charges of possessing child sex abuse material, before being sentenced a year later to up to 175 years and up to 125 years in two separate courts for molesting the gymnasts under his care.

In a statement made at the hearing, the current FBI Director Christopher Wray apologised for the “reprehensible conduct” and “fundamental errors” made in the case.

And at a news conference later on Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that the president “supports” the steps outlined in a previous report into the FBI’s handling of the case to ensure that the same situation is not allowed to happen again. 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.