There will never be another Simone Biles. As the most prolific gymnast of all time, it would take an entire article to detail why she is so important to American gymnastics, Team USA, and the country proper.
Her name frequents headlines, even in the off season. She is an outspoken advocate for many prominent cultural and sociological issues. In the past week, her moves have been watched by the country yet again. Only this time, they would watch Simone in a courtroom, rather than in competition.
Surrounded by previous teammates Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Maggie Nichols, the ladies took to the stand to detail the pedophelic abuse they suffered at the hands of the team doctor, Larry Nassar. Only, this time, the focus is not on Nassar, who was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 2017. This time, the women stood in front of the country and told them about the miscarriage of justice they suffered at the hands of the FBI and the investigators of their case.
The four thoroughly detailed exactly how the system failed them. Initially, by permitting the abuse to continue, and then, by sitting on their testimony. For over a year, the FBI had enough evidence and testimony by the girls to make an arrest and failed to do so, thus allowing for the breadth of Nassar’s abuse to expand rapidly.
Raisman even detailed that after she had cried on the phone while telling the FBI investigator of her abuse, there was silence at the other end. While the FBI has fired the lead investigator on the case, Michael Langeman, the Justice Department has yet to bring charges against him, or his previous (now resigned) supervisor, Jay Abbott. Additionally, Maroney made a point to expose the fact that Lisa Monaco, Deputy Attorney General, had failed to appear at the hearing. As a fellow woman, the gymnasts felt that both her silence and her lack of presence spoke volumes. The Justice Department also released findings that the FBI neglected to properly investigate the situation after being informed of the abuse.
After three years of courtroom testimony, the four women at the forefront of the case are ready to close. The proposed settlement is $425 million. However, if insurance agencies do not allow the funds to go through, both the survivors and USA Gymnastics might not see that money. The women also want to make clear that this is a solution, rather than a settlement. After all, the money is mainly intended to bring USA Gymnastics out of bankruptcy and the remaining will be distributed among the survivors.
This case will surely be a landmark for gymnastics both nationwide and internationally. As part of the agreement, USA Gymnastics is mandating that member clubs provide visible information on how to report sexual assault in the institution. Safeguards are rolling out in order to help investigate claims more efficiently, and reporting measures are being instituted in an attempt to mitigate corruption or abuse. Since Nassar was the team’s physician during multiple Olympic games, the women are calling on the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee to acknowledge their part in the abuse and provide part of the payment in the settlement.
Team USA Gymnastics is an international sensation. They prove as much every time they perform on the world stage. Competition becomes elite from a young age. Learning the routines and skills require hands-on coaching. Gymnastics is famous for intense discipline and sincere dedication. This atmosphere has allowed generations of cyclical abuse and misconduct. Children are the victims of opportunity in this case. Raisman, Maroney, Nichols, and Biles, now women, are doing their part to make sure that the tainted reputation can be restored. Though three of the four are now retired, they will battle with their abuse daily. They managed to become international superstars despite the sexual assault they faced and the mental trauma that induced. In answering the call for justice, the FBI fell flat. While these female athletes have been scrutinized relentlessly throughout their careers, they contend that the investigators they trusted have not been scrutinized enough.
While the US will anxiously await another Simone Biles (if this off season truly does herold her retirement), a Biles retirement will hopefully mean the end of an era. Not in terms of her skill and expertise that has defined a new era for gymnastics globally, but rather an end to the thousands of stories of abuse that young gymnasts endure. Gymnasts are known for their strength and discipline. The four Team USA vets are fighting to make sure that discipline is reflective of their skill in competition, rather than their skills in suppression.