On Aug. 7, one of USA Gymnastics' most decorated athletes told reporters that she has trouble trusting the organization following the sexual abuse scandal involving former team doctor Larry Nassar. The following day, USA Gymnastics' president responded to Simone Biles, emphasizing that she supports her and that the organization is working to create a safer environment for athletes. The comments come just as the United States Gymnastics Championships are kicking off. The men's competition began Thursday and the women's competition will commence on Friday.
Biles, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, discussed her feelings about USA Gymnastics when speaking with reporters after a training session in Kansas City, which is hosting the championship competition, the New York Times noted. The paper explained that reporters asked her about a tweet she posted on Aug. 4, in which she wrote, "The more I learn, the more I hurt. USAG failed us ... And they continue to fail us ..."
In her tweet, Biles was commenting on a Senate panel's finding that USAG was negligent when it came to protecting athletes from sexual abuse. Biles was one of over 300 athletes who accused Nassar of sexual abuse, Vox noted. The former team doctor was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison back in January 2018, the outlet added.
When asked about the tweet on Wednesday, Biles emphasized the importance of speaking out, and also said that she's had a tough time returning to the organization that "failed her," the Kansas City Star reported. As Biles described, per the paper:
... It’s not easy coming back to the sport, coming back to the organization that has failed you. But at this point, I just try to think I’m here as a professional athlete with my club team. It’s not easy being out there because every day is a reminder of what I went through and what I’ve been through and what I’m going through and how I’ve come out of it ...
Biles began to tear up as she continued to speak. "It’s hard coming here for an organization and having had them fail us so many times. We had one goal and we did everything they asked us for, even if we didn’t want to," she said to reporters, per the Kansas City Star. "And they couldn’t do one damn job. You had one job. You literally had one job and you couldn’t protect us."
On Thursday, USA Gymnastics president and chief executive Li Li Leung told reporters that she's supportive of Biles using her voice and taking a stand, the Washington Post noted. As Leung described, via the paper:
I think historically our organization has silenced our gymnasts, and I am 100 percent supportive of giving our athletes a voice. Our athletes should be able to say what they feel and become whole doing so ... I understand that we have let down many athletes, have let down Simone, and she needs time to heal from that ... If voicing her concerns is a way to do that, I am completely supportive of that.
The paper noted that Leung also emphasized that USAG is working diligently to put more protections in place for its athletes. One of these measures has included adding a vice president of health and wellness to the organization, as well as a vice president of SafeSport, which focuses on abuse prevention.
Overall, as Biles approaches the championship competition this weekend, it's promising to see that she's receiving a public display of support from USAG leadership.