USA Gymnastics pulls training out of Karolyi Ranch
USA Gymnastics, in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal and comments this week by four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, said Thursday it has ended its lease to hold training camps for its women’s national team at the Karolyi Ranch.
The U.S. national team had held regular training camps at the Karolyi Ranch since 2000, in the process building the most dominant team in women’s gymnastics, winners of the last two Olympic gold medals.
Once viewed as a symbol of the program’s success, the ranch now stands as a symbol of the system that allowed Nassar, the former national team physician who has been accused of sexually abusing 130 gymnasts, to victimize a group of young women that included Olympic gold medalists Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabrielle Douglas and McKayla Maroney.
Biles, who is training to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games, this week said it “breaks my heart” to think that she might have to return to the same location where she and others were abused by Nasser. With the termination of the lease, that will no longer be the case.
Kerry Perry, the federation’s new president and CEO, said USA Gymnastics is searching alternate sites for training camps until a permanent site for a new national training center can be determined.
“It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December,” Perry said. “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.”
Perry said the federation has canceled a planned training camp that was to begin Monday at the ranch in the Sam Houston National Forest in Walker County owned by former national team coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi.
Nassar is expected to be sentenced this week in Michigan after pleading guilty to seven state charges of criminal sexual conduct. He is expected to receive a life prison sentence.
Houston attorney Gary Jewell, who represents the Karolyis, said the lease agreement between the couple and USA Gymnastics included a right of early termination. He did not know immediately how much time remained in the agreement.
“It is their contractual right, and they exercised it,” he said.
USA Gymnastics had announced plans in 2016 to purchase the 20-acre portion of the 2,000-acre ranch that included the gymnasium and residential complex where top gymnastics gathered monthly for training sessions, but that agreement was canceled after word of the charges against Nassar emerged later that year.