Governor orders criminal probe of Texas gymnastics ranch
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a criminal investigation Tuesday into claims that former doctor Larry Nassar abused some of his victims at the Karolyi Ranch, a Texas facility that was the training ground for U.S. women's gymnastics.
Abbott ordered the Texas Rangers, the state's top criminal investigations unit, to look into ranch, which hosted training camps for more than a decade until earlier this year. The Walker County Sheriff's Office is already investigating.
Several gymnasts have said Nassar abused them at the ranch. Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison last week. More than 150 women and girls have said he had molested them under the guise of medical treatment.
Abbott called the allegations "gut-wrenching." He ordered the state investigation because the claims involve multiple jurisdictions and states.
"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 said.
The ranch is owned by former national team coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi. USA Gymnastics cut ties with the ranch earlier this month, a few days after Olympic champion Simone Biles and said she dreaded the thought of having to return there to train. Other gymnasts have also said they were abused at the ranch.
"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.
Nassar's accusers have said he would use his ungloved hands to penetrate them and other inappropriate touching when they were seeking treatment for back, hip, leg, foot and other injuries. Victims blamed Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for not doing more to stop him earlier.
The Karolyis established the rustic estate in 1983 in Sam Houston National Forest, about an hour north of Houston, and eventually expanded it to 2,000 acres. USA Gymnastics had planned to buy about 40 acres, including training gyms, housing for up to 300 athletes, and medical and recreational facilities, but backed out in 2017.
When Martha Karolyi was elevated to national team coordinator in 2001, she installed a centralized system that required national team members to make regular visits to the ranch for training. Gymnasts have said their parents were not allowed at the ranch.
McKayla Maroney, who won gold in 2012, has said she was molested at the ranch by Nassar, starting when she was 13 years old. Biles' teammates from the 2016 squad, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, also have said they were abused by Nassar there.
An attorney for the Karolyis did not immediately respond to request for comment.