Hours before former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar’s sentencing for sexually abusing girls in his care, American gymnast Simone Biles has come forward to say, “Me too”.
More than 140 female athletes said they were abused by the once-respected doctor, including Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney. All members of the “Fierce Five” US Olympic gymnastics team that won gold in 2012. Many said they were pressured into silence by powerful institutions, including USA Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body in the United States.
“I, too, am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar,” Simone said Monday afternoon in a Twitter post with the hashtag #MeToo.
“There are many reasons that I have been reluctant to share my story, but I know now that it is not my fault.”
Nassar was the team doctor for USA Gymnastics through four Olympic Games, treating young hopefuls and gold medal winners. His case illustrates the drive of the #MeToo movement to call out serial predatory behavior and the forces that enable it.
“This experience does not define me”, Simone said.
In response to Simone’s statement, the organization pledged “unwavering” support for her and others who have “courageously” come forward.
“USA Gymnastics is absolutely heartbroken, sorry and angry that Simone Biles or any of our athletes have been harmed by the horrific acts of Larry Nassar,” the group said. “We are our athletes’ advocates. USA Gymnastics will continue to listen to our athletes and our members in our efforts of creating a culture of empowerment with a relentless focus on athlete safety every single day.”
Simone, now 20, joined the US Olympic gymnastics team in 2016, winning the individual all-around. Though her statement did not include specific allegations against Nassar, she described experiencing abuse under the guise of “special treatment,” a recurring claim from Nassar’s victims.
“This behavior is completely unacceptable, disgusting, and abusive, especially coming from someone I was TOLD to trust,” she said Monday.
She, too, called out USA Gymnastics for its alleged role in allowing Nassar to prey on young girls for decades.
“For far too long I’ve asked myself ‘Was I too naive? Was it my fault?’ I now know the answer to those questions. No. No. It was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others.
“After hearing the brave stories of my friends and other survivors, I know that this horrific experience does not define me.”
Larry Nassar has since been sentenced to life in prison.