WSJ: USA Gymnastics hid the Larry Nassar investigation from Simone Biles

The Wall Street Journal is reporting USA Gymnastics withheld the investigation of Larry Nassar's sexual abuse allegations from star gymnast Simone Biles. CNN's Brynn Gingras has the details and the Olympian's reaction.

Posted: Nov 22, 2019 6:20 PM
Updated: Nov 22, 2019 6:20 PM

Simone Biles reacted Thursday to a Wall Street Journal report accusing USA Gymnastics of ignoring the possibility she had been sexually abused by Larry Nassar and excluding her from the investigations of the national team's now-disgraced doctor.

"Can't tell you how hard this is to read and process," Biles, gymnastics' preeminent star, wrote in a tweet sharing the WSJ story. "The pain is real and doesn't just go away ... especially when new facts are still coming out."

"What's it going to take," she asked, "for a complete and independent investigation of both (the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee) and USAG?"

According to the WSJ report, USAG, the sport's governing body in the US, withheld the investigation of the doctor's sexual abuse from Biles -- despite the fact she was among the first athletes USAG learned were uncomfortable with the doctor.

Then-CEO Steve Penny, who left USAG in 2017, was aware of Biles' concerns, the report says, but he did not include her in a weeks-long internal investigation of Nassar and did not mention her when he spoke to the FBI.

All of this took place as USAG became increasingly invested in Biles' status as the sport's biggest athlete, with Penny once suggesting that USAG try to become her agent, according to the WSJ. And when USAG approached the FBI in Indianapolis in 2015, the WSJ reports, Biles was in town doing promotional appearances that included attending a party for Penny's daughter's gymnastics group.

The WSJ says its report is based on interviews with "key participants;" comments by Penny's lawyers; documents provided to the US Senate Commerce Committee; and a report by Ropes and Gray, a law firm commissioned by the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Per the WSJ, Biles didn't learn of the FBI investigation until she came home from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she won four gold medals. It wasn't until 2018, when Biles revealed that she, too, had been abused by Nassar, that a USAG official asked her about the team doctor, the WSJ report says, citing people familiar with the matter.

Nassar, once a celebrated sports physician for the USA Gymnastics national team and Michigan State University, is spending the rest of his life in prison. He pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges and state charges of criminal sexual conduct stemming from the sexual abuse of patients under the pretense of providing medical treatment.

More than 150 women and girls said in court that he sexually abused them over the past two decades.

In a statement, current USAG President and CEO Li Li Leung said the organization was "surprised, deeply saddened and outraged to learn from the Wall Street Journal that Simone Biles was one of the athletes mentioned in the original notification in 2015 that triggered the initial Nassar investigation."

"We have extended our apologies to Simone and her family," Leung said, "and we are very sorry our organization's leadership at the time handled this situation in a disrespectful and inconsiderate way."

'It feels like the harshest of betrayals'

Penny's attorneys told the WSJ that Penny was not aware that Biles was a victim until her 2018 statement, and that many of the actions detailed in the story were carried out by USAG and its lawyers. He is "extremely distressed by law enforcement's lack of action to address Nassar on multiple occasions," the lawyers told the newspaper.

Penny's comment about USAG becoming Biles' agent was "tongue in cheek," the attorneys told the WSJ.

CNN has reached out to Penny's lawyers for comment, as well as USOPC and Biles' family.

According to the WSJ, the new head of the US women's gymnastics program at the time, Rhonda Faehn, was told in June 2015 that gymnast Maggie Nichols said Nassar massaged her groin, and that Biles and Aly Raisman, another acclaimed gymnast, also had concerns about him.

The WSJ reported that Faehn, who took notes and wrote down Biles' and Raisman's names, says she called Penny that night to tell him. Penny's attorneys said Faehn did not tell him about Biles at that time. Penny did acknowledge that he knew by mid-July that the USAG was aware it "might want to talk" to Biles about Nassar, the WSJ report says. Penny would not say how or when he learned that.

The law firm Ropes and Gray, which conducted an independent, 10-month-long investigation of USAG's handling of the Nassar case, noted in its report that on June 17, 2015, Faehn was provided the names of three gymnasts not named in the report who had concerns about Nassar.

Two of them "may have experienced 'the uncomfortable factor' with Nassar," the report says, adding Faehn "immediately relayed this information" to Penny, "who stated that he would handle the matter and notify the proper authorities."

One of those two athletes has since publicly identified herself as a survivor of Nassar's abuse, the Ropes and Gray report says, but there is no evidence that she "was ever contacted ... for an interview" by USAG.

"It is unconscionable -- and illegal -- that officials purporting to be leaders in sport knowingly hid reports of child sexual abuse," lawyers representing over 200 survivors of Nassar's abuse said in a statement obtained by CNN.

"We demand accountability for the safety and well-being of athletes at the 2020 Olympic Games and encourage all sponsors to stand with survivors and insist on reform," the lawyers said.

Biles declined to be interviewed for the WSJ's story, but her parents, Ron and Nellie Biles, told the paper the family still wrestles with the fallout of the abuse.

"We continue to struggle with how and why this happened, and every time we hear something new like this, it feels like the harshest of betrayals and it is just too painful for our family to talk about openly," they said in a statement. "To this day, we still do not know why Simone's abuse was concealed by Steve Penny, USAG and USOPC."

West Lafayette
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 64°
Kokomo
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 62°
Rensselaer
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 61°
Fowler
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 61°
Williamsport
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 63°
Crawfordsville
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 57°
Frankfort
Overcast
57° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 57°
Delphi
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 61°
Monticello
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 61°
Logansport
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 55°
Dry, windy, very warm weather, followed by scattered rain & much cooler conditions.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 114236

Reported Deaths: 3548
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21067764
Lake10397321
Elkhart6477109
St. Joseph6312105
Allen6113201
Hamilton4803109
Vanderburgh353630
Hendricks2694123
Monroe253136
Tippecanoe234713
Johnson2291123
Clark218756
Porter210546
Cass19399
Delaware191861
Vigo180324
Madison161975
LaPorte140540
Floyd135161
Howard129263
Warrick123436
Kosciusko121117
Bartholomew115557
Marshall99724
Dubois96418
Boone96046
Hancock91743
Grant90334
Noble90032
Henry79326
Wayne75114
Jackson7469
Morgan70938
Shelby66829
Daviess65828
Dearborn64728
LaGrange63411
Clinton59514
Harrison56624
Putnam54211
Knox5139
Lawrence51028
Montgomery50721
Gibson4964
White48314
DeKalb46811
Decatur45839
Miami4313
Greene42235
Fayette41913
Jasper3902
Steuben3787
Scott36711
Sullivan33312
Posey3160
Jennings31212
Franklin30325
Clay2995
Orange28824
Ripley2878
Carroll27313
Wabash2638
Washington2631
Whitley2617
Starke2597
Adams2553
Wells2513
Jefferson2473
Fulton2352
Spencer2283
Huntington2253
Tipton22122
Perry21613
Randolph2117
Jay1760
Newton17211
Owen1681
Martin1640
Rush1544
Pike1431
Vermillion1270
Fountain1202
Pulaski1161
Blackford1143
Brown1043
Crawford1040
Parke972
Benton880
Ohio787
Union780
Switzerland690
Warren391
Unassigned0226

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events