Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday requested the Texas Rangers investigate allegations of sexual assault at the Karolyi Ranch, the former U.S. Olympic training facility were several gymnasts have claimed disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar abused them.
In a letter to Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, Abbott described the claims of sexual abuse at Karolyi Ranch as “shocking” and “gut-wrenching.”
“Those athletes, as well as all Texans, deserve to know that no stone is left unturned to ensure that the allegations are thoroughly vetted and the perpetrators and enablers of any such misconduct are brought to justice,” he said.
“The people of Texas demand, and the victims deserve, nothing less.”
The governor’s call for further investigative efforts come amid a Walker County Sheriff Department probe into the ranch outside of Huntsville — owned by former national team coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi.
The sheriff’s office confirmed last week that it opened an investigation into the scandal-plagued facility, but declined to offer specific details. The state’s medical board recently confirmed that Nassar treated athletes at the ranch without a Texas medical license.
The Karolyi Ranch in a recent message posted to its website announced the training facility had permanently been closed.
Larry Nassar stands during his sentencing hearing on Jan. 24, 2018.
“After nearly four decades of spiriting young gymnasts towards greatness in our sport, our yearly tradition of the Karolyi’s Gymnastics Camp has come to an end,” the message read. “Bela, Martha, and the rest of the camp staff wish to sincerely thank all participants, USA Gymnastics, and everyone who has been a part of our extended family for 35 years of unforgettable memories.”
In the days after Nassar was handed up to 175 years in prison for abusing athletes in the Lansing, Michigan area, USA Gymnastics said Karolyi ranch would no longer serve as its training facility.
Ahead of the announcement, Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles came forward with allegations against Nassar and specifically singled out Karolyi Ranch in her social media statement.
“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 in 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” she said.
During Nassar’s seven-day sentencing hearing earlier this month, more than 100 gymnasts testified to years of abuse at the hands of the former Michigan State University doctor, many of them — like Biles — alleging it occurred at the ranch.
Former United States Gymnast Mattie Larson said during her victim-impact statement she’d been uncomfortable at the Karolyi Ranch since she first started attending the “eerie” facility at the age of 10.
Court react to Larry Nassar’s 175-year sentence
She noted the training site’s lack of cell service and isolated location were “no mistake” and allowed abusers like Nassar to thrive. She also recalled purposefully injuring herself to get out of a trip to the center.
Olympian McKayla Maroney, who detailed the “disgusting” abuse she endured in a letter to the court, also railed against the training facility.
“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,” Maroney wrote.
Olympians Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas have also said they were abused by Nassar at the training facility.
The Karolyis first established the ranch in 1983 in Sam Houston National Forest and eventually expanded it to 2,000 acres. USA Gymnastics previously intended to buy a parcel of the property but backed out in May 2017. They cited a variety of reasons including “unexpected financial expenditures.”
United States Gymnastics in 2001 designated the Karolyi Ranch as the U.S. Women’s National Gymnastics Training center, the same year Marth Karolyi was named the national team coordinator. She went on to implement a program that required national team members to attend regular training sessions at the ranch.