Olympic gold medallists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney were set to testify on Wednesday about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, as the U.S. Senate examines why the FBI failed to investigate his crimes sooner.
The trio appeared before the Senate judiciary committee, along with former gymnast Maggie Nichols, one of the first victims to report the abuse to USA Gymnastics.
The hearing comes after the Justice Department's Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued a scathing report in July that blasted the FBI for botching its investigation, in a series of errors that allowed the abuse to continue for months.
Horowitz will also testify on Wednesday, as will FBI Director Chris Wray, who is expected to face sharp bipartisan questioning about why the agents who botched the probe were never prosecuted for their misconduct.
The FBI's investigation into Nassar started in July 2015, after USA Gymnastics President and CEO Stephen Penny reported the allegations to the FBI's Indianapolis field office and provided agents with the names of three victims willing to be interviewed.
FBI agent heavily criticized
That office, then led by Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott, did not formally open an investigation. The FBI only interviewed one witness months later, in September 2015, and failed to formally document that interview, in an official report known as a "302," until February 2017 — well after the FBI had arrested Nassar on charges of possessing sexually explicit images of children in December 2016.
When the interview was finally documented in 2017 by an unnamed supervisory special agent, the report was filled with "materially false information and omitted material information," Horowitz's report determined. The office also failed to share the allegations with state or local law enforcement agencies.
"Children suffered needlessly because multiple agents in multiple offices at the FBI neglected to share the Nassar allegations with their law enforcement counterparts at state and local agencies," ranking Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said in prepared remarks.
"Disturbingly, the abuse occurred at the hands of someone who was entrusted with their medical treatment and well-being," he added.
Nassar thought to have abused hundreds of women
Horowitz also said that Abbott, who retired from the FBI in 2018, also violated the FBI's conflict of interest policy by discussing a possible job with the U.S. Olympic Committee while he was involved with the Nassar investigation.
The FBI previously called Abbott's behaviour "appalling" and said the supervisory special agent remains with the FBI but is no longer a supervisor and is "not working on any more FBI matters."
Nassar, who had been the main doctor for Olympic gymnasts, was sentenced in federal court in 2017 to 60 years in prison on charges of possessing child sex abuse material.
The following year, he was sentenced up to 175 years and up to 125 years, respectively, in two separate Michigan courts for molesting female gymnasts under his care. Prosecutors have estimated he sexually assaulted hundreds of women.