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Amid allegations that athletes were sexually abused for years at the Karolyi Ranch near Huntsville, Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday asked the Texas Rangers to investigate activities at the former national training center for USA Gymnastics.
Gymnasts, including 2010 U.S. national champion Mattie Larson, spoke out about enduring abuse at the center while giving victim-impact statements before Larry Nassar, a former sports doctor, was sentenced last week to 40 to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty in a Michigan courtroom to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct.
Others, including Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, have also spoken out about the role the remote ranch played in allowing Nassar to abuse athletes under the guise of medical treatment.
“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,” Biles said in a Jan. 15 statement before USA Gymnastics severed ties with the ranch.
Abbott noted that multiple athletes have said they had been sexually abused while training at the Texas facility.
“The public statements made by athletes who previously trained at the Karolyi Ranch are gut-wrenching,” Abbott wrote in a letter to Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“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. The people of Texas demand, and the victims deserve, nothing less.”
Abbott’s letter noted that while the Walker County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the allegations, the Texas Rangers are in a better position to investigate criminal action that has taken place “across multiple jurisdictions and states.”
Addressing Nassar in the Lansing, Michigan, courtroom on the sixth of seven days of victim-impact statements, Larson said the ranch — a remote location without cellphone service at the end of a long dirt road — was “the perfect environment for abusers and molesters to thrive.”
Nassar took advantage of her fear of the adult coaches to strike up a false friendship, she said.
“I also didn’t tell my fellow teammates because, the times he treated me at the ranch, besides when we were traveling and get treatments in his room, it happened to be in the same room as all of them — a lounge where we would watch TV on a big couch and the treatment tables were behind it,” Larson said in court. “I figured if he was doing this in front of my friends, it can’t be that bad, right?”
Larson said she once pretended to slip on a wet floor, slamming her head into a tub, to fake an injury.
“I was willing to physically hurt myself to get out of the abuse I was experiencing at the ranch,” she said. “In the midst of all these adults who I was scared of, Larry, you were the only one I trusted. In the end, you turned out to be the scariest monster of all.”