USA Gymnastics drops Karolyi Ranch amid pressure
Under mounting pressure over the Larry Nassar scandal, USA Gymnastics announced Thursday it will no longer allow the famed Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas, to serve as a national team training center.
“Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this,” said Kerry Perry, president and CEO of USA Gymnastics. “We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes.”
It’s a sprawling ranch on the border of the Sam Houston National Forest about an hour north of Houston, where Nassar worked as national team doctor to treat some of the country’s greatest gymnasts. Many of those athletes would later accuse him of abuse there.
The former Michigan State University doctor has admitted to sexually assaulting the gymnasts, possessing child pornography and molesting girls who sought treatment in several cases against him in Michigan.
Perry said USA Gymnastics has canceled its training camp for the U.S. Women’s National Team that was scheduled at the ranch for next week.
“We are exploring alternative sites to host training activities and camps until a permanent location is determined,” Perry said. “We thank all those in the gymnastics community assisting in these efforts.”
Last year, Jessica Howard and Jeanette Antolin, members of the U.S. National Team in the late 1990s, allege Nassar sexually abused them during medical treatment sessions at Karolyi Ranch, where the young gymnasts would go to train roughly once a month.
Among others, 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher also alleged abuse by Nassar at the Olympic Games in Sydney and at the Karolyi Ranch. She said he abused her many times, in her room at the ranch, in her bed under the guise of treatment.
Dantzscher on Thursday opened the third day of testimony in Nassar’s sentencing hearing for seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
More recently, Aly Raisman and Simone Biles, heavily decorated gymnasts, have said the athletes shouldn’t have to return to the ranch.
“It breaks my heart even more to think that as I work toward my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” Biles wrote on social media.
Though the Karolyis — Martha and husband Bela Karolyi — USA Gymnastics enjoyed periods of success in the 1980s and 1990s — helping Mary Lou Retton become the first American woman to win the Olympic title in 1984 and reaching the top of the podium with the “Magnificent Seven” in Atlanta in 1996.
Martha then achieved further success after she took over the program in 2001 when Bela’s contract was not renewed after a disappointing showing at the Sydney Olympics.
The Associated Press contributed.