Simone Biles. (AP photo)
By Danielle Allentuck
Two days before Simone Biles will compete for her sixth national gymnastics title, she ended up in tears while discussing her lack of faith in USA Gymnastics, the sport’s national governing body, after the Lawrence Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
Speaking with the news media on Wednesday after a training session in Kansas City, ahead of the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, Biles was not able to contain her emotions when asked about a tweet she posted on the subject Aug. 4. The more she learns, she said, the more she feels hurt by USA Gymnastics. “It’s hard coming here to an organization and having had them fail us so many times,” Biles said, as she began to cry.
Biles posted her tweet in response to a news story about a congressional subcommittee’s investigation focusing on the safety of athletes in Olympic sports.
Biles revealed last year that she was one of more than 300 athletes who had accused Nassar, a team doctor for both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, of molesting them under the guise of a medical procedure.
After pleading guilty to multiple sex crimes, Nassar was sentenced last year to prison terms that amount to a life sentence. The congressional subcommittee has harshly criticized USA Gymnastics, which has been in turmoil since the Nassar scandal came to light in 2016. The federation has hired three new chief executives in the last two years.
“It becomes a problem whenever we work with future people,” Biles, 22, said. “How can we trust them? They bring in new people all the time, and I automatically put my foot up, because the people that I’ve known for years had failed us.”
Biles, who won the all-around title at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, said she still did not trust the organization.
“You had one job, you literally had one job, and you couldn’t protect us,” she said. “Did you guys really not like us that much that you couldn’t just do your job?”
Biles also said that there were times after the Nassar revelations that going to the gym was too difficult. Other times, she said, a switch would flip in the middle of a workout, and she would be reminded of what happened to her and have to walk out of the gym.
“You feel everything at once; it hits you like a train wreck,” she said.
Biles also said she has had trouble trusting doctors, and that she has had to force herself to get the treatment she needs to continue in the sport. She is in therapy, she said, to help her cope with the trauma.
“As a gymnast, if we’re hurt or something goes wrong, you go to a doctor or you go to your coaches, and they tell you all the right steps to the healing process,” Biles said. “But for this, everyone’s healing process is different, and I think that’s the hardest part.”
In a statement responding to Biles’ comments, Li Li Leung, the president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics, said: “We will continue to work hard to demonstrate to Simone and all of our athletes, members, community and fans that we are working to foster a safe, positive and encouraging environment where athlete voices are heard.”
At this point, Biles said, all she can do is hope USA Gymnastics will do the right thing — even if she has her doubts.
“At the end of the day, it’s a ticking time bomb,” she said.