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Simone Biles Shared How Larry Nassar's Abuse Affected Her In Tokyo And Vowed That The Scandal Will Not Be "Buried Under The Rug"

"We still have to protect those athletes and figure out why it happened."

Warning: This post includes mentions of sexual assault.

It goes without saying that Simone Biles has had a beyond challenging experience at the Tokyo Olympics.

Simone standing in front of the balance beam at the Tokyo Olympics
Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

The decorated athlete withdrew from most of the gymnastics individual finals, but eventually rallied to win the bronze medal in the balance beam event.

Simone holding her bronze medal
Jamie Squire / Getty Images

She cited mental health concerns and "the twisties" as the reasoning behind her withdrawal. And yesterday, her coach, Cecile Canqueteau-Landi, revealed that Simone's aunt died unexpectedly two days before her balance beam final.

And in a new interview with Today's Hoda Kotb, she opened up about how the sexual abuse she faced at the hands of former Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar could have influenced her withdrawal.

“Now that I think of it, maybe in the back of my head, probably yes, because there are certain triggers that you don’t even know, and I think it could have," she explained.

Loic Venance / AFP via Getty Images

Nassar had been sexually abusing gymnasts under the guise of medical care for decades, and he was first charged in 2016. More than 500 women — including Simone and fellow Olympians Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and McKayla Maroney — came forward and accused Nassar of assaulting them. He was sentenced in 2018 and will spend the rest of his life in prison. 

In the interview, Simone also stressed that the fallout of the scandal will not be swept away: "It’s not going to be buried under the rug, and there will still be a very big conversation, so we still have to protect those athletes and figure out why it happened," she said.

Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

A year after Nassar's sentencing, a congressional report revealed that Olympic organizations and the FBI "fundamentally failed" to protect the women he abused and were complicit in his sexual misconduct.

Simone has previously opened up about how her experience affected her, revealing that it was "impossibly difficult" to return to the same training facility where she was abused.

In a July episode of her Facebook Watch docuseries Simone Versus Herself, she revealed that she experienced a dramatic decline in her mental health after processing what had happened to her: "I was super depressed. I didn't want to leave my room. I didn't want to go anywhere. I kind of just, like, shut everybody out."

However, she said she feels a responsibility to speak out — both as a survivor and the current face of US gymnastics. "It's going to be harder to shut us out and our voices out if there is still somebody competing in the sport and is active."

Xavier Laine / Getty Images

If you or someone you love has been affected by sexual violence, check out the resources available on the National Sexual Violence Resource Center or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to talk to a trained professional.

Or, if you or someone you know is in immediate danger as a result of domestic violence, call 911. For anonymous, confidential help, you can call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or chat with an advocate via the website.