Monday, November 20, 2017 at 11:57 AM

USA Gymnastics Sex-Abuse Shame: Gabby Victim-Blames Aly and Outrages Simone

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Heart-warming athlete profiles have become a signature feature of Olympics coverage. But I always find them anodyne because they invariably fail to show the interpersonal relationships featured athletes have with fellow teammates and competitors.

Profiles on members of the celebrated Women’s USA Gymnastics team during last year’s Rio Olympics brought this oversight into stark relief. This was especially so given the obvious tension between Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles. Here is how even I felt moved to address it in “Rio Olympics: Day 2,” August 2, 2016.


I would be remiss not to acknowledge the equally remarkable dynamics between Gabby Douglas, the defending champion in the All-Around event, and Simone Biles, the three-time World Champion. For it seems Douglas can barely contain her resentment over the fact that Biles has not only replaced her as the darling of their sport, but is destined to dethrone her at these Games. I suspect failing to even qualify along with Biles for the All-Around only compounds her resentment.

But Douglas needs to get over herself. After all, four years ago, I was pleading with corporate sponsors to give her the same commercial opportunities they gave Mary Lou Retton after she won the All-Around at Los Angeles 1984. Well, she has exploited those opportunities so shrewdly, she has earned the nickname ‘Gabby incorporated’ – with everything from Gabby dolls to Gabby emojis raking in the dough.

What’s more, it’s a measure of her pioneering influence in this respect that Biles came into these Games with nearly as many commercial endorsements herself.


Biles vindicated my take on the dynamics afoot in Rio by eventually winning gold in the coveted All-Around. More to the point, though, teammate Aly Raisman won silver, which could only have added public shame to Douglas’s private resentment. Because only her deep and abiding resentment explains the dynamics that played out among these three in the media last week.

It began when Raisman shared a heart-rending testimonial about being sexually abused on the November 12 edition of 60 Minutes.

Raisman: You really don’t want to let yourself believe that, you know, I’m, I, I am a victim of sexual abuse…like it’s really not an easy thing to let yourself believe that.

60 Minutes: You are saying you were sexually abused?

Raisman: Yes. Absolutely.

60 Minutes: By the national team doctor … while you were out there representing your country.

Raisman: Yes.

In fact, she claims that team doctor, Larry Nassar, sexually abused her for years.

Dr. Nassar, who worked with the US women’s national gymnastics teams for more than two decades, is now in jail. He pleaded guilty to child pornography charges but not guilty to charges of sexual assault. More than 130 women, many of them former athletes, have filed civil lawsuits alleging that Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of treating them for hip, back, and other athletic injuries.

(CBS News, November 10, 2017)

Thanks to Raisman, who reported her abuse to FBI investigators right after the Rio Olympics, Nassar will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.

Naturally, most people hailed Raisman. Remarkably, Douglas assailed her.

Gabby Douglas has stirred controversy for remarks toward fellow Olympian Aly Raisman, who claimed she was sexually abused by the former doctor for the US women’s gymnastics team.

‘It is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy,’ Douglas tweeted. ‘Dressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd.’

(Yahoo! Sports, November 17, 2017)

The backlash was immediate and overwhelming. But none provided greater insight into the interpersonal relationships among members of that storied team than the way Biles reacted:

shocks me that I’m seeing this but it doesn’t surprise me…honestly seeing this brings me to tears bc as your teammate I expected more from you & to support her. I support you Aly & all the other women out there!


— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) November 17, 2017

A duly shamed Douglas deleted the offending tweet. When that horse-out-of-the-barn gesture provided no absolution, she tweeted this equally contrived and feckless clarification:

i didn’t correctly word my reply & i am deeply sorry for coming off like i don’t stand alongside my teammates. regardless of what you wear, abuse under any circumstance is never acceptable. i am WITH you. #metoo

— Gabby Douglas (@gabrielledoug) November 18, 2017

This, alas, is what has become of the girl who was the darling of the 2012 London Olympics. And it’s a damn shame.

Most people back then could not have imagined that lurking beneath her endearing smile was the sneer of a resentful, entitled, self-righteous, hypocritical bitch. Hell, given her prudish reaction, you’d think she trained (and visited the team doctor) wearing bloomers and chastity belt; and that Raisman did so wearing G-string and pasties.

But I saw so many glimpses of her sneer that the way things played out last week among these former teammates did not surprise me at all.

Finally, there’s no denying the indiscriminate and prolific nature of Nassar’s sexual abuse. Therefore, I have to wonder if Douglas and Biles reacted to Raisman’s testimonial based on similar experiences:

  • Douglas exhibiting a form of Stockholm syndrome by blaming the victim and siding with her and their abuser (sadly, the MJ-style skin bleaching she’s undergoing suggests that she’s dealing with all kinds of psychological issues); and
  • Biles defending Raisman as much as fellow teammate as fellow victim of Nassar’s sexual abuse.

Related commentaries:
Bile all-around

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