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Saturday Sports: Gymnasts Tell Senators U.S. Athletics Failed To Protect Them

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: U.S. women gymnasts tell a Senate committee how the FBI and U.S. athletics failed to protect them from the assaults of their team doctor, Larry Nassar. And NFL Week 2. And tomorrow night, ice and brooms - curling. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: It was heart-wrenching, and it angered you to see true athletic heroes this week tell a Senate committee how they were failed by a sports and government power structure, mostly headed by men.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. And what we heard from four elite gymnasts, including the best, Simone Biles, was wrenching. Much of the testimony this week in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee we had heard before, about the sexual assault Dr. Larry Nassar committed against these gymnasts and several hundred other young female athletes. The new ugliness revealed this week - how the FBI failed these athletes when it learned about the allegations against Nassar. An inspector general's report described how there was a gap of more than a year between when the first - when the FBI first found out about Nassar in 2015 and when the Bureau actually acted, thanks, in large part, to The Indianapolis Star's great reporting about this scandal. And during that gap, the report said Nassar continued to abuse more than 70 young women and girls.

SIMON: Anything change?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, many survivors would like to see a thorough investigation, not just of the FBI, but USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the organizations that oversee the sport. It's important to survivors to get rid of lingering questions, to stop guessing about who knew what when and to actually see all the evidence, which they say they haven't, including communications among officials who were involved. There are also calls for overhauling SafeSport. That's the organization set up a few years ago to address sexual abuse of minors in amateur sport. I spoke to gymnastics journalist Jessica O'Beirne. She says she regularly talks to survivors and those accused in the Nassar scandal. And she says both groups, in fact - and I'm quoting here - are "retraumatized, frustrated and disillusioned when they deal with SafeSport."

SIMON: Yeah. Well, thank you for following this. We're going to make a transition into talking about Week 2 of the NFL. The Bears are - seem to be as bad as ever. Is Aaron Rodgers trapped on the Packers?

GOLDMAN: Well, that's why we're looking forward to Week 2, to see if what happened in Week 1 with the Bears and the Packers and everyone else starts to become a trend. Aaron Rodgers - a great quarterback and the NFL's reigning Most Valuable Player and his Green Bay Packers. They were awful in their lopsided loss to New Orleans. There's the expectation that Green Bay rights the ship against Detroit Monday night. And if not, perhaps that is a worrying trend in cheesehead country. But remember, Scott, as we're trying to figure out trends, there is always this caveat about the NFL, especially early in a season. Everything you think you know probably is wrong.

SIMON: Right. Well, I find that true in life.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Speaking of life, it's "Curling Night In America."

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: All right. And ready? A biter to you, Tom. Do you know what that is?

GOLDMAN: I do not.

SIMON: In curling, it's a stone that touches the outer edge of the circle.

GOLDMAN: Oh, Scott. With apologies to "Ted Lasso," curling is life. The Winter Olympics are about five months away, and curling is in the air. NBC's "Curling Night In America" starts its seventh straight season tomorrow, which means there are enough people excited for the show to run for seven straight years. We have a decision to make. Are we going to honor the most exciting sport on ice with brooms or make the tired, old jokes about curling? Really, it's your call. It's your call.

SIMON: No, no, no, we like curling on this program.

GOLDMAN: So let's get out there and cheer tomorrow for the U.S. men against Denmark.

SIMON: OK. Yeah. All right, go - all right, well, thanks NPR's Tom Goldman, a biter, if ever there is one. I've got to look up more terminology. Thanks very much for being with us.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) OK. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.