USA Gymnastics cuts ties with Karolyi Ranch and its memories of abuse
Posted January 18, 2018 3:37 p.m. EST
(CNN) — USA Gymnastics will no longer hold the women's team's training camp at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas, the organization said, after several gymnasts said the location was the site of unchecked sexual abuse from former team doctor Larry Nassar.
"USA Gymnastics has terminated its agreement with the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas. It will no longer serve as the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center," Kerry Perry, president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, said in a series of tweets on Thursday.
USA Gymnastics originally agreed to buy the Karolyi Ranch in 2016, but the organization decided not to proceed with the purchase in May 2017, citing a variety of reasons including "unexpected financial expenditures." Perry said it has been her intent to end the agreement since she took over in December.
The organization canceled next week's training camp and said it is exploring alternative sites to host training activities and camps until a permanent location is determined.
"Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes," she added.
The decision comes just days after one of the sport's most accomplished stars singled out the Karolyi Ranch for criticism.
Simone Biles, who won four gold medals at the 2016 Olympics, said she was abused by Nassar at the Karolyi Ranch. In a statement earlier this week, she said it "breaks my heart" to know that she would have to train for the coming Olympics there.
"It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused," Biles said in a statement.
The decision also coincides with Larry Nassar's sentencing hearing in Michigan this week.
Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual criminal conduct in Ingham County in his role as a doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. As part of a plea deal, he admitted that he used his power as a respected medical professional to sexually abuse young girls under the guise of providing medical help.
As of Thursday, more than 60 victims have confronted Nassar in court this week as part of a remarkable legal reckoning. A total of about 100 victims are expected to speak throughout the week.
Site of training -- and abuse
The Karolyi Ranch in Texas, originally run by Bela and Martha Karolyi, has served as the official US Women's National Team Training Center since 2001. The Karolyis still own the ranch.
Located off a gravel road in Sam Houston National Forest, the ranch includes gymnastic training facilities, a dance studio, housing for 300 people, a dining hall, and medical and rehab facilities. The remote 2,000-acre ranch has been the hub of USA Gymnastics' run of international success since the turn of the millennium.
But scores of young gymnasts say the ranch was also the setting for years of sexual assault and abuse from former team doctor Larry Nassar.
Several of America's most famous female gymnasts have singled out the ranch as the site of their abuse. In a statement read aloud in court on Thursday, McKayla Maroney said Nassar abused girls at the ranch.
"Nassar was not even licensed to practice medicine in Texas, yet he 'treated' and abused girls at the Karolyi Ranch Olympic Training Center in Huntsville, Texas, for more than 15 years," she said.
Maggie Nichols, now a star gymnast at the University of Oklahoma, also said Nassar abused her at the location.
"We were subjected to Dr. Nassar at every National Team Camp, which occurred monthly at the Karolyi Ranch. His job was to care for our health and treat our injuries. Instead, he violated our innocence," Nichols said in a statement.
USA Gymnastics' Perry attended the Nassar hearings on Wednesday to hear from the victims.
"I attended these proceedings to listen to the courageous women as they faced a despicable predator and explained in significant and painful detail the impact he had on each of their lives," she said. "Their powerful voices leave an indelible imprint on me and will impact my decisions as president and CEO every day."