The world’s greatest gymnast categorically stated on Wednesday that USA Gymnastics “failed” its athletes.
Fighting back tears, Simone Biles, the Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion, told reporters gathered near her morning training at the upcoming U.S. Gymnastics Championships that “the people that I’ve known for years had failed us.”
Biles was referring to the scandal surrounding Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor accused of molesting more than 300 underage athletes while telling them it was for medical purposes. Nassar was later sentenced to over 300 years in prison for his crimes.
“It’s hard coming here for an organization, having had them failed us so many times,” Biles said. “We had one goal, and we’ve done everything that they’ve asked us for, even when we didn’t want to, and they couldn’t do one damn job—you had one job, you literally had one job and you couldn’t protect us.”
Biles revealed last year that she was one of the many young athletes abused by Nassar. The horrifying betrayal has left his victims with lasting trauma, and a distrust of the organization they grew up in.
Li Li Leung—who took over as president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics after the Nassar scandal broke—responded to Biles’ comments in a statement, saying: “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.”
An 18-month congressional investigation concluded last month that USA Gymnastics, as well as the U.S. Olympic Committee, “knowingly concealed abuse by Larry Nassar, leading to the abuse of dozens of additional amateur athletes from summer 2015 to September 2016.”
Biles has been vocal about her disappointment in the organization and its efforts to conceal Nassar’s crimes but has rarely opened up about her experience dealing with the psychological fallout.
Some days Biles said she feels unable to train at all. On other days, her mind will bring her back to the abuse mid-workout, forcing her to leave the gym. “You feel everything at once; it hits you like a train wreck,” she said. Biles has been open about going to therapy to help cope with the trauma.
“I feel like every day is a reminder of what I went through, and what I’ve been through, and what I’m going through and how I’ve come out of it,” she said on Wednesday.
Biles said she’s grateful for the platform she’s been given, but regardless, it has not been “easy coming back to the sport, coming back to the organization that has failed you... It becomes a problem whenever we work with future people,” she said. “How can we trust them? They bring in new people all the time, and I automatically put my foot up.”
She also shared how it’s been difficult to trust doctors again since her abuse. “It’s just really sad because every time I go to the doctor or training, I get worked on... I don’t want to get worked on,” Biles said. “But my body hurts. I’m 22. At the end of the day... I have to go to therapy. It’s just hard. I’ll work through it. It’ll take some time. I’m strong. I’ll get through it. But it’s hard.”
Biles will begin competing for her sixth national gymnastics title on Friday.