Simone Biles opens up about Larry Nassar abuse

Gymnast says she was 'very depressed' after allegations against Nassar first surfaced 

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Friday 10 July 2020 13:37 BST
Simone Biles in tears over Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal says they have been failed

Simone Biles has opened up about the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of Larry Nassar, the former doctor for the US women’s national gymnastics team.

In a new interview with Vogue, the Olympic gold-medallist revealed the anxiety and depression she felt after learning about the sexual abuse allegations against Nassar, describing it as a “really dark time”.

“I was very depressed,” the 23-year-old said. “At one point I slept so much because, for me, it was the closest thing to death without harming myself. It was an escape from all of my thoughts, from the world, from what I was dealing with. It was a really dark time.”

The gymnast also reflected on her realisation that she had been abused by Nassar - something she said she had not considered until former national team member Maggie Nichols told her own story.

Nassar’s abuse, often disguised as medical treatments, first became public in 2016, prompting more than 300 women to come forward with allegations against the former physician.

According to Biles, she had initially felt her experience with Nassar wasn’t abuse because it wasn’t as bad as what her teammates went through.

“But I was reading Maggie’s coverage and it just hit me,” she said. “I was like, I’ve had the same treatments. I remember Googling, like, sexually abused. Because I know some girls had it worse than me. I know that for a fact. So I felt like I wasn’t abused, because it wasn’t to the same extent as the other girls.

“Some of my friends had it really, really bad. They were his favourite. Since mine wasn’t to that capacity, I felt like it didn’t happen.”

Biles also believes her initial belief that she wasn’t a victim stemmed from her fears at not appearing “perfect” and like “America’s sweetheart”.

Explaining that she probably knew the truth deep down but didn’t want to admit it to herself, Biles said: “I felt like, not that you’re supposed to be perfect, but I just felt like that’s what America wanted me to be - was perfect.

“Because every time an American wins the Olympics, you’re like America’s sweetheart. So it’s like, How could this happen to America’s sweetheart? That’s how I felt - like I was letting other people down by this.”

While the star athlete did not attend Nassar’s sentencing hearing in January 2018 - where he was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison for three counts of criminal sexual conduct - she did come forward publicly about the abuse she experienced in statements shared to her social media accounts.

In addition to feeling as if a “weight” had been lifted, Biles also hoped that her decision to share her story would help encourage other survivors to do the same.

Since then, Biles has publicly spoken out against USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee as well, after it was revealed that both organisations had allegedly attempted to cover up Nassar’s abuse.

An 18-month congressional investigation found both organisations failed "to protect its athletes from sexual abuse" and repeatedly "failed to act aggressively to report wrongdoing to proper law enforcement agencies."

The past behaviour by USAG is, in part, why Biles said it was so painful to learn that the Tokyo Olympics had been postponed until 2021 due to coronavirus.

“I felt kind of torn and broken,” she told Vogue of the news, explaining that it was difficult to come to terms with because she had worked so hard but also because it meant “another year of dealing with USAG.

“That, I don’t know if I can take,” she said.

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