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

"They need to put children above money and medals," Rachael Denhollander said.

August 09, 2019, 4:39 PM

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).

"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.
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

"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.

The more I learn, the more I hurt. USAG failed us. USOC failed us. Many failed us. And they continue to fail us. Real and actual change isn’t easy but it’s clear there’s a lot more work that needs to be done.https://t.co/owRBFtacfn

— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) August 5, 2019
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