FBI mishandled Larry Nassar-USA Gymnastics abuse case, watchdog says

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WASHINGTON — The FBI made “fundamental” errors in investigating sexual abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar and did not treat the case with the “utmost seriousness,” the Justice Department’s inspector general said Wednesday. More athletes said they were molested before the the FBI swung into action.

The FBI acknowledged conduct that was “inexcusable and a discredit” to America’s premier law enforcement agency and all.

The long-awaited watchdog report raises troubling questions about how the department and the FBI handled the case and it highlights major missteps at the FBI between the time the allegations were first reported and Nassar’s arrest.

The inspector general’s investigation was spurred by allegations that the FBI failed to promptly address complaints made in 2015 against Nassar. USA Gymnastics had conducted its own internal investigation and then the organization’s then-president, Steve Penny, reported the allegations to the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis. But it took months before the bureau opened a formal investigation.

At least 40 girls and women said they were molested over a 14-month period while the FBI was aware of other sexual abuse allegations involving Nassar. Officials at USA Gymnastics also contacted FBI officials in Los Angeles in May 2016 after eight months of inactivity from agents in Indianapolis.

The inspector general’s office found that “despite the extraordinarily serious nature” of the allegations against Nassar, FBI officials in Indianapolis did not respond with the “utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required.”

When they did respond, the report said, FBI officials made “numerous and fundamental errors” and also violated bureau policies. Among the missteps was a failure to conduct any investigative activity until more than a month after a meeting with USA Gymnastics. Agents interviewed by phone one of three athletes, but never spoke with two other gymnasts despite being told they were available to meet.

The watchdog investigation also found that when the FBI’s Indianapolis field office’s handling of the matter came under scrutiny, officials there did not take any responsibility for the missteps and gave incomplete and inaccurate information to internal FBI inquiries.

The FBI rebuked its own employees who failed to act in the case and said it “should not have happened.”

“The actions and inactions of certain FBI employees described in the Report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization,” the agency said in a statement.

“The FBI has taken affirmative steps to ensure and has confirmed that those responsible for the misconduct and breach of trust no longer work FBI matters,” the statement said. “We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the failures of the employees outlined in the Report do not happen again.”

The inspector general interviewed an FBI supervisory special agent last September who said the original allegations reported by Penny and USA Gymnastics were “very vague” and who questioned Penny’s credibility, describing him as “kind of a snake oil salesman kind of guy.”

That special agent also told investigators that the Indianapolis field office didn’t appear to have jurisdiction to investigate because the alleged crimes did not take place in Indiana. That agent and an FBI supervisor in the office said they told Penny to contact local law enforcement — a claim contradicted by Penny and the chairman of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors.

The FBI said the supervisory special agent “violated multiple policies” and that the agency took immediate action when it learned that the agent did not properly document the sexual abuse complaints, had mishandled evidence and failed to report abuse.

The report also detailed that while the FBI was investigating the Nassar allegations, the head of the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis, W. Jay Abbott, was talking to Penny about getting a job with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. He applied for the job but didn’t get it and later retired from the FBI, the report said.

Abbott also lied to investigators from the inspector general’s office multiple times in an effort “to minimize errors” made by his office in handling the case, the report found.

Nassar was ultimately charged in 2016 with federal child pornography offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan.

He is now serving decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women said he sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

The inspector general’s office said it reviewed thousands of documents and interviewed more than 60 witnesses, including several victims, their parents, prosecutors and current and former FBI employees.

The FBI’s handling of the case was strongly condemned by members of Congress, and some senators called for the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland to testify about the case.

“We are appalled by the FBI’s gross mishandling of the specific warnings its agents received about Larry Nassar’s horrific abuse years before he was finally arrested,” said Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

Nassar’s victims also strongly criticized the FBI for its poor handling of the investigation.

“The dozens of little girls abused after the FBI knew who Larry was and exactly what he was doing, could have and should have been saved,” tweeted Rachel Denhollander, one of the first women to publicly accuse Nassar of abuse.

John Manly, an attorney for over 150 of Nassar’s victims, said Abbott should be prosecuted and insisted that anyone responsible for missteps in the investigation should be held accountable.

“The OIG report released shocks the conscience,” Manly said. “These women and girls not only deserved to have their case thoroughly investigated but deserved the respect and full attention of those investigating their case.”

USA Gymnastics is still reeling from the fallout of the Nassar scandal six years after Penny first approached authorities. The sport’s national governing body has undergone a massive overhaul in leadership — current president Li Li Leung is the fourth person to hold the position since the 2016 Olympics — and safety protocols in hopes of providing better protection for athletes.

USA Gymnastics also remains in court as it continues mediation with dozens of Nassar survivors, though Leung hopes settlement can be reached by the end of the year.

“At the end of the day, what has happened is something that we are learning from and we’re using the past to inform how we go forward,” Leung told reporters last month.

The report came on the same day the 2021 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, a group that includes reigning world and Olympic champion and Nassar abuse survivor Simone Biles, flew to Tokyo for the Games.

At the French Open, an unlikely women’s final is set

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PARIS (AP) — The ball landing at Barbora Krejcikova’s feet on match point appeared to come down behind the baseline.

The linesman thought so and called the shot long. A TV replay confirmed as much, and the unseeded Krejcikova was so sure she raised her arms in triumph to celebrate a berth in her first Grand Slam final at the French Open.

Chair umpire Pierre Bacchi disagreed. He reversed the call, sparking a fresh round of debate about video replay and briefly delaying Krejcikova’s victory.

Tennis was spared an unjust result five points later, when she hit a backhand winner to close out the biggest victory of her career. The Czech saved a match point midway through the final set and outlasted No. 17-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece, 7-5, 4-6, 9-7.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

“I always wanted to play matches like this,” Krejcikova said.

She must like roller coasters, too. Her opponent Saturday will be 29-year-old Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who also advanced to her first major final by beating unseeded Tamara Zidansek, 7-5, 6-3.

It was only the second time in the professional era that there were four first-time Grand Slam women semifinalists at a major tournament, and the first time since the 1978 Australian Open.

The men’s semifinals Friday include a showdown between 13-time champion Rafael Nadal and 2016 winner Novak Djokovic. It’s their 58th meeting, and a rematch of last year’s Roland Garros final. The other semifinal will match No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas against No. 6 Alexander Zverev, and one of them will have a shot Sunday at his first Grand Slam title.

Krejcikova, a two-time major doubles champion ranked 33rd, is playing singles in the main draw of a major tournament for just the fifth time. The No. 31-seeded Pavlyuchenkova, by contrast, has played in more majors before reaching a final — 52 — than any other woman.

A top-20 player as a teen, Pavlyuchenkova had been 0-6 in major quarterfinals before finally surmounting that hurdle on Tuesday, and was steadier than the big-swinging Zidansek in their semifinal.

“I wanted this so much that right now I don’t feel anything,” Pavlyuchenkova told the crowd in French.

Krejcikova’s run to the final is equally improbable.

“It sounds incredible,” she said. “I cannot believe it. It’s actually happening.”

It seemed especially unlikely nine games into the third set, when Sakkari held a match point. She confessed she then became less aggressive.

“I got stressed, starting thinking that I’m a point away from being in the final,” she said. “I guess it’s a rookie mistake.”

Krejcikova erased the match point with a swinging volley for a nervy winner, and 40 minutes later they were still playing.

Then came the real drama. With Krejcikova holding a match point in the final game, Sakkari hit a forehand near the baseline. Bacchi climbed off his chair, took a look, called the shot good and ordered the point replayed.

“He came and he’s like, ‘It’s in,’ and I’m like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no. Why?’” she said with a chuckle. “But what can I do? I cannot change his decision. It’s fine; let’s go. Let’s try to just win the next one.”

A TV replay indicated the ball was clearly long, but video review isn’t used at Roland Garros, where the balls usually leave clear marks in the clay.

Krejcikova kept her cool and was celebrating for good moments later after converting her fifth match point.

There wasn’t as much drama in the day’s first match, but the quality of play was as enjoyable as the warm, cloudless weather. The 85th-ranked Zidansek, who this week became the first Slovenian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, was the better player for much of the first set, moving well and hitting the more aggressive groundstrokes.

But Pavlyuchenkova won the most important points, and Zidansek dumped consecutive shaky serves into the net to lose the set.

Pavlyuchenkova’s groundstrokes carried more sting in the second set as she raced to a 4-1 lead. Her first sign of nerves came as she double-faulted twice, including on break point, to make it 4-3, but she broke back and easily served out the victory.

“Tennis is such a mental sport,” she said. “That’s what is really hard about tennis.”

Zidansek could only agree.

“A new situation for me, semifinals of a Grand Slam,” she said. “So, yeah, I was nervous. But who isn’t at this point? I was just trying to compose my nerves as well as I could.”

Pavlyuchenkova, who has won 12 tour titles, will climb back into the Top 20 next week for first time since January 2018.

“She’s in the final,” Krejcikova said. “She must be playing well.”

The same could be said for Krejcikova, who has won 11 consecutive matches, including her first WTA singles title last month at Strasbourg. She is the eighth unseeded women’s finalist at the French Open in the professional era, and the fourth in the past five years.

A protege of the late Grand Slam champion Jana Novotna, Krejcikova seeks to become the first Czech woman to win Roland Garros since Hana Mandlikova in 1981.

She’s also bidding to become the first woman to win both in doubles and singles at Roland Garros since Mary Pierce in 2000. She and Katerina Siniakova have advanced to the semifinals Friday.

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Laurie Hernandez, Morgan Hurd will not compete at Olympic Gymnastics Trials

Laurie Hernandez
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Olympic champion Laurie Hernandez and world champion Morgan Hurd will not compete at the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials in two weeks.

USA Gymnastics on Wednesday updated its national championships recap from early Monday morning to reflect that “no additional names will be added” to the Olympic Trials field of 18 following a concluded petition process.

The original 18 were named after nationals on Sunday night — the top 17 in the all-around standings plus Riley McCusker, who finished second on uneven bars.

Hernandez, who earned team gold and balance beam silver in Rio, withdrew from nationals after performing on one event after hyperextending her left knee in balance beam warm-ups on Friday. She returned to competition this year after a four-and-a-half-year break following Rio.

“Definitely heartbroken that this week didn’t quite go the way I’d planned,” was posted on Hernandez’s social media on Sunday.

Hurd, the 2017 World all-around champion in Simone Biles‘ year off, competed in two of the four events on both days of nationals. She finished 23rd on floor and 26th on beam after undergoing her fifth and sixth career right elbow surgeries in March.

“The future is an unwritten place. cannot express my gratitude enough to everyone for the constant love and support,” Hurd posted on social media on Monday. “i wouldn’t be where i am or accomplish what i have without it. congrats to all the girls who made olympic trials, can’t wait to watch you kill it!”

Chellsie Memmel, the 2005 World all-around champion and 2008 Olympic silver medalist who competed this year for the first time in nine years, is also not in the Olympic Trials field.

A committee reviewed petitions to be included at Trials from Hurd, McCusker and Memmel and approved McCusker’s based on criteria outlined in procedures.

  • Simone Biles, Spring, Texas/World Champions Centre
  • Skye Blakely, Frisco, Texas/WOGA Gymnastics
  • Jade Carey, Phoenix, Ariz./Arizona Sunrays
  • Jordan Chiles, Spring, Texas/World Champions Centre
  • Kayla DiCello, Boyds, Md./Hill’s Gymnastics
  • Amari Drayton, Spring, Texas/World Champions Centre
  • Kara Eaker, Grain Valley, Mo./Great American Gymnastics Express
  • Addison Fatta, Wrightsville, Pa./Prestige Gymnastics
  • Shilese Jones, Westerville, Ohio/Future Gymnastics Academy
  • Emily Lee, Los Gatos, Calif./West Valley Gymnastics School
  • Sunisa Lee, St. Paul, Minn./Midwest Gymnastics Center
  • Emma Malabuyo, Flower Mound, Texas/Texas Dreams
  • Grace McCallum, Isanti, Minn./Twin City Twisters
  • Riley McCusker, Brielle, N.J./Arizona Sunrays
  • Zoe Miller, Spring, Texas, World Champions Centre
  • Ava Siegfeldt, Williamsburg, Va./World Class Gymnastics
  • MyKayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz./Desert Lights Gymnastics
  • Leanne Wong, Overland Park, Kan./Great American Gymnastics Express

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