top of page

How Far Will the Law Bend for a Few Gold Medals?




"It disgusts me that we are still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability over 6 years later.”


On September 15th 2021, gymnasts Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Maggie Nichols, and McKayla Maroney gathered to testify at the US senate in wake of the Larry Nassar investigation, brought back to light by a recent report released by the US inspector general, detailing the accounts of the federal bureau of investigation’s (FBI) mishandling of information regarding the bureau’s involvement with the case. In the late of 2016, the Indianapolis Star released a report which opens up the countless stories of the assault that Nassar has committed, catalyzing the wave of truths being let out for the public to see. Decades upon decades of abuse had been endured by countless athletes, before law enforcement made any progress in acknowledging the presence of Nassar’s abuse and addressing the severity of the issue at hand, failing to pro-act to develop a necessary change. After an intense trial sentencing Nassar to De Facto life without parole, the mention of these horrific events began to trickle down. After this wave had subsided however, a greater tide demonstrated that the federal bureau had been aware of what was occurring, and had received a report of various allegations containing detailed accounts of what was taking place at the hands of Larry Nassar from multiple witnesses, as well as a thumb drive containing video evidence of the pseudo treatments conducted. Shortly after this report, Nassar faced retirement in his position at USA Gymnastics, yet continued to operate his practices at Michigan State University (MSU), Twistars USA Gymnastics club, and Holt Highschool. Within the 15 months between the time when the federal bureau gained awareness of the situation and the release of the report, at least 70 victims were assaulted at the hands of Nassar. (Macur) Despite beholding this empirical knowledge, the FBI failed to uphold their federal duties, and disregarded the safety of these athletes by refusing to act upon the reports they had received. (Nassar)


This case, proves nothing more than the sheer irresponsibility, ethical misalignment, and lack of concern at the hands of law enforcement. During his commencement of the trial, Senator Durbin addresses the complete lack of initiative for the security and well being of US athletes, and the apparent ignorance towards ensuring safe, appropriate conduct within national organizations. Highlighting the environment that was created and permitted, essentially a breeding ground for neglect, senator Durbin refers to how Nassar “used the competitive nature of sports to hide in plain sight”, and how “by the time Nassar was convicted and sentenced in federal and Michigan State court, over 150 survivors had come forward to recount these horrific crimes.” The agency presented nothing but incompetence in their process of investigation, neglecting to interview key witnesses, improperly documenting statements and evidence, declining to advise state and local authorities about the allegations and to what extent they would be sufficient to support federal jurisdiction, and doctoring material false statements and deceptive omissions. Despite being well positioned to offer supervision of field officers work, the Federal Bureau and its division for the Violent Crimes Against Children unit entirely neglected the integrity of the case by concealing their actions and prioritizing public image before the protection of abuse victims, who continued to undergo the exploitation that was in their power to eradicate.


Agents of the bureau were referred by the inspector general for criminal prosecutions to the Department of Justice, however these referrals were promptly declined with no further explanation. Not until the trial was in the face of the department, was an agent involved in undermining the significance of the case dismissed from the institution. Senator Blumenthal candidly confronted the department, labeling their lack of initiative as utterly shameful. The FBI attributes this “episode'' to a few agents who failed to carry out their duties properly, undermining the horrific wrongdoings by the system as “the fault of a few bad apples”, as some may be compelled to do. However, the truth underneath this case demonstrates that the “egregious failures like this one do not arise out of nowhere. They are enabled by systematic organizational failures of training, supervision, hiring, and promotion.”


The powerful testimonies made by the four gymnasts illuminated the magnitude of their trauma as they explained their stories before the senate. Maggie Nichols and Mckayla Maroney illustrated how the FBI chose to deal with their situations when they came forth individually in 2015, demonstrating the apathetic response received from the working agent to their excruciatingly detailed statements made in a place of vulnerability and fear. During her encounter with the FBI where she presented her case, Maroney placed herself in a defenseless position in hopes that her speaking up would stop any other young gymnast from experiencing what she had with Nassar. How the agent who she confided in fabricated and falsified her statement however, did nothing less than the opposite. Recounting this event vividly, Maroney explained how she came to the realization that her story was not enough to make these agents feel the weight of responsibility on their shoulders, and that the people who were meant to be there to protect her and hundreds of young girls, were ready to do anything but that. Affirmatively, she questioned, “What is the point of reporting abuse when our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer? [...] If they’re not going to protect me, I want to know, who are they trying to protect?”


Aly Raisman described the malice and lack of action of the FBI and the department of Justice as “Serving innocent children up to a pedophile, on a silver platter”, and deeply questioned the reasoning behind failing to respond appropriately to something where “the facts are obtainable, and the stakes are so high”. Simone Biles too, in tears and distress, sat before the Senate and asked, “how much is a little girl worth?”. To this day, too many questions regarding how this abuse has continued and been enabled have gone unanswered. Until every last fact and detail has been disclosed and the system as one entity is rebuilt from the bottom up, it is inevitable that children today will still face the hostility experienced by Nassar’s victims.


Conducted by the senators whom the four gymnasts expressed their gratitude to, a few notable efforts have been conducted into improving policy and legislation to further prevent the abuse of athletes from ever occurring again, and to ensure safe governing bodies that represent the American athletes. The senate has passed two bills addressing the failures of the Nassar case with “overwhelming bipartisan support” according to Senator Grassley, such as the “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act” of 2017, as well as the “Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act” of 2020. Along with Senator Grassley, Senators Morran and Blumenthal have both extensively protracted the duties of adults in authoritative positions to report suspected child abuse, implementing far more severe consequences to those who fail to adhere to appropriate practices of child abuse prevention. In addition, the legislative loophole within the sex tourism statute flagged in the report by the inspector general, allowing Nassar to evade federal prosecution for assaulting children while traveling abroad, has been officially closed and is a small step towards greater changes in the law. This does not however, remove from the fact that many more measures need to be set into action, as child abuse in sports remains a continuous concern. The erasure of trauma that Larry Nassar and this system infiltrated with malice, is something that will never be made possible, made clear by the four powerful testimonies made.


These women have been treated as broken record players, speaking up about their stories and fighting for justice continuously, over and over again. Despite pouring their entire lives into achieving excellence and representing their nation, all they have received in return is an unapologetic narrative which reads that their lives are not valued highly enough to be protected against one of the largest serial sexual abuse perpetrators of history. This outdated system where an abuse of power is the norm and basic human rights are a secondary bonus, must be thoroughly evaluated and renovated for more attentive and professional responses if this longstanding environment of abuse and fear is ever to be removed. In conjunction with the progress made by law enforcement ,officials the courage expressed by the hundreds of athletes who stepped forward about their undismissable experiences with abuse of any sorts, is what will break past generations of buried malpractice and shine light on what hopefully one day be the ability to feel safe and cared for.



REFERENCES


Works Cited


Macur, Juliet. “Watch Live: F.B.I. Director Apologizes for Handling of Gymnastics Abuse


Case.” The New York Times, 15 Sept. 2021,



maroney.html.


Nassar, Lawrence. Investigation and Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Handling


of Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Former USA Gymnastics Physician EXECUTIVE


SUMMARY Investigation and Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Handling of


Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Former USA Gymnastics Physician Lawrence Gerard


Nassar Introduction and Factual Findings. 2021.


Washington Post. “Gymnasts Testify at Senate Hearing on Larry Nassar Investigation -


(FULL LIVE STREAM).” Www.youtube.com, 15 Sept. 2021, youtu.be/CrlTUwl94b4.


Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Comments


bottom of page