Simone Biles says she should’ve ‘quit way before Tokyo’ but wouldn’t let Larry Nassar steal joy

"I should have never made another Olympic team," says Biles in a new interview

Global superstar athlete Simone Biles gets candid about her decision to withdraw from competing in the Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health. 

In her first major profile since the summer games, Biles opens up to New York Magazine’s The Cut about taking the time to heal. She tells the publication she “should have quit” long prior to her Tokyo Olympics withdrawal, citing former team USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar as the primary reason cause for much of her emotional distress.

Biles has previously discussed being sexually abused by Nassar. She recently blasted the FBI’s handling of the Nassar investigation during emotional testimony to Congress.

Simone Biles
Simone Biles of Team United States competes in the Women’s Balance Beam Final on day eleven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on August 03, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

“If you looked at everything I’ve gone through for the past seven years, I should have never made another Olympic team. I should have quit way before Tokyo, when Larry Nassar was in the media for two years. It was too much,” Biles says in The Cut feature. “But I was not going to let him take something I’ve worked for since I was 6 years old. I wasn’t going to let him take that joy away from me.”

Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting young athletes and was sentenced in 2018 to 40 to 175 years in prison, theGrio previously reported. Many of his victims were teenagers. Some were Olympians, and some were even gold medalists. Several have spoken out about the impact of the abuse and none have been more vocal than Biles.

“I am also a survivor of sexual abuse. And I believe without a doubt that the circumstances that led to my abuse and allowed it to continue, are directly the result of the fact that the organizations created by Congress to oversee and protect me as an athlete – USA Gymnastics (USAG) and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) – failed to do their jobs,” Bailes said during her Senate testimony earlier this month. 

The athlete blamed Nassar and the “entire system that enabled and perpetuated his abuse.” 

Biles teared up in her new interview with The Cut while reflecting on some of the trauma. On her decision to withdraw from the Olympics, she says, “My perspective has never changed so quickly from wanting to be on a podium to wanting to be able to go home, by myself, without any crutches. If I still had my air awareness, and I just was having a bad day, I would have continued. But it was more than that.”

Biles continues, “Say up until you’re 30 years old, you have your complete eyesight. One morning, you wake up, you can’t see shit, but people tell you to go on and do your daily job as if you still have your eyesight. You’d be lost, wouldn’t you? That’s the only thing I can relate it to. I have been doing gymnastics for 18 years. I woke up — lost it. How am I supposed to go on with my day?”

Biles withdrew from competing in the Tokyo Olympics and chose to put her “mind and body” first. The superstar athlete later said she has no regrets about pulling out of the competition. Most recently, she shared a photo on Instagram of the silver and bronze medals she won at this summer’s Games, noting that she is not a quitter.

The American gymnastics champ won bronze during the balance beam a week after she took herself out of several competitions, theGrio previously reported. She bailed out of her vault during the first rotation of the team finals on July 27, then stunningly removed herself from the competition as a matter of protection because she was having difficulty locating herself in the air. She later described the phenomenon as “the twisties” and subsequently pulled out of the all-around, uneven bars, floor exercise, and vault finals.

Looking back on her Olympics controversy, Biles tells The Cut “there have been highs, there have been lows.”

“Sometimes it’s like, yeah, I’m perfectly okay with it. Like, that’s how it works. That’s how it panned out. And then other times I’ll just start bawling in the house,” she adds. 

Simone Biles
Simone Biles of Team United States poses with the bronze medal following the Women’s Balance Beam Final on day eleven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on August 03, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

“Everybody asks, ‘If you could go back, would you?’ No. I wouldn’t change anything because everything happens for a reason. And I learned a lot about myself — courage, resilience, how to say no and speak up for yourself,” Biles says.

“This will probably be something I work through for 20 years,” she says of her healing journey. “No matter how much I try to forget. It’s a work in progress.”  

Biles acknowledges that part of the process will include “sacrificing some of that stardom,” because, she adds, “you can’t have it all.”

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s “Dear Culture” podcast? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download today!