With nationals underway a year before Olympics, USA Gymnastics still struggles to earn trust

PHOTO: Simone Biles works on the beam during practice for the U.S. gymnastics championships Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo.PlayCharlie Riedel/AP Photo
WATCH Simone Biles blasts USA Gymnastics for failing to protect her

Simone Biles is set to make history this weekend at the annual U.S. Gymnastics Championships, but the four-time Olympic gold medalist is not mincing words when it comes to the tournament's organizing body, USA Gymnastics (USAG).

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"It's hard coming here for an organization and having had them fail us so many times," Biles, who is going for her sixth U.S. title, told reporters in Sprint Center arena in Kansas City, Missouri, earlier this week.

In the year-and-a-half since disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar was effectively given a life sentence for both molesting patients and possessing child pornography, USAG has apparently not gained back the trust of its most vocal critics -- and most prominent stars.

The biggest thing I would say is what I say to all survivors: You're not alone. You are not alone. We stand in this with you. We will fight with you. And you are so much stronger than you realize.

Biles' comments came after a congressional report was released following an 18-month investigation detailing failures by USAG as well as the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) to protect athletes under their purview from abuse.

PHOTO: Simone Biles works on the beam during practice for the U.S. gymnastics championships Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. Charlie Riedel/AP Photo
Simone Biles works on the beam during practice for the U.S. gymnastics championships Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo.

"I wish I could say it was a surprise," Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast and the first person to publicly accuse Nassar of abuse, told ABC News of the report. "We have known for years -- decades even -- that there is an incredible amount of corruption in USAG and USOC."

In her view, "there really isn't" a way forward for USAG to regain athletes' trust given their bungled reform actions since Nassar was reported.

"For the last three years, [USAG and USOC] have had the ability to clean house, to say what went wrong, who were the participants, who needs to go," she said. "And they haven't done that."

Since Nassar was reported, USAG has appointed a number of officials who have subsequently been removed following revelations of connections to him or connections to reports of abuse against themselves.

Just this week, Anna Li, who had been on the USAG Athletes' Council, resigned following allegations of her or her mother verbally, emotionally and physically abusing athletes. The Orange County Register reported that her resignation was the fifth top USAG official to do so in less than a year.

Those apparent major oversights, paired with the new details of the ways in which USAG failed to stop Nassar's abuse, have prevented many former and current gymnasts from expressing confidence in the organization.

Following the release of the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee report, Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Jerry Moran, R-Ky., introduced legislation to reform USOC and increase oversight on it. Their press release on the matter included support from former gymnasts and Olympians Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney and Jamie Dantzscher, each of whom said Nassar abused them.

PHOTO: Senator Richard Blumenthal speaks during the event in front of the Capitol to urge the passage of the H.R. 8 universal (gun ownership) background checks legislation. Event was held at the grass on the eastern side of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Senator Richard Blumenthal speaks during the event in front of the Capitol to urge the passage of the H.R. 8 universal (gun ownership) background checks legislation. Event was held at the grass on the eastern side of the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Denhollander also expressed hope in the senators' work on the issue, adding that their work would go beyond gymnastics.

"When other organizations see that USAG can continue doing this and the USOC isn't going to do anything about that, what that communicates to them is that they're safe to continue operating as is, it's business as usual, and business as usual is an abusive organization that results in hundreds -- if not thousands -- of broken children," she said.

The mother of four also hopes Congress continues to press USOC to explain why it halted a decertification process of USAG after USAG filed for bankruptcy late last year.

The USOC did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on the process.

Biles said Wednesday she is still struggling to recover from Nassar's abuse -- while dealing with an organization in constant upheaval -- as she trains to make a dominant return to the Olympics in a year.

PHOTO: Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander gives her victim impact statement during the seventh day of Larry Nassars sentencing hearing Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, in Lansing, Mich. Carlos Osorio/AP Photo
Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander gives her victim impact statement during the seventh day of Larry Nassar's sentencing hearing Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, in Lansing, Mich.

Denhollander said it's an "incredible burden that none of these athletes deserve."

"It's just unconscionable," she said, calling Biles' and her teammates' circumstances "manifestly unfair."

A spokeswoman for the USAG told "Good Morning America" it is working to make Biles and others in the community feel safe.

"We will continue to work hard to demonstrate to Simone and all of our athletes, members, community and fans that we are working to foster a safe, positive and encouraging environment where athlete voices are heard," USA Gymnastics CEO and president Li Li Leung said in a statement in response to Biles' comments.

The women's competition in the U.S. Gymnastics Championships began on Friday and concludes Sunday.

Meanwhile, Denhollander said her message to Biles and other elite gymnasts is, "You are not alone."

"We stand in this with you. We will fight with you. And you are so much stronger than you realize," she said.

"[Biles] shouldn't be saddled with that weight, but she's handling it with incredible grace," Denhollander added. "Her voice has a lot of power, and I hope she feels that, and she deserves that; she has earned that power."