The governor of Texas has called on the Texas Rangers to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct at the famed and recently shuttered Karolyi Ranch north of Houston. The ranch was until recently a training camp for the nation’s top gymnasts.
Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to the director of the state’s public safety department Tuesday asking him to deploy the statewide law enforcement Rangers to provide a thorough investigation of the ranch. USA Gymnastics terminated its relationship with the Karolyi Ranch earlier this month during a sentencing hearing for former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison for criminal sexual conduct. Several women who provided statements during that hearing say Nassar assaulted them while they were training at the ranch in Texas.
“The public statements made by athletes who previously trained at the Karolyi Ranch are gutwrenching,” Abbott wrote in his letter. “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.”
Several of the women who spoke out about Nassar said he earned their trust by playing the “good cop” alongside demanding and demeaning coaches, including ranch owners and former Olympic coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi. While Nassar was supposed to be treating them in their rooms at the ranch, he sexually assaulted them, the women say.
In the late spring of 2015, inside the Karolyi Ranch, visiting coach Sarah Jantzi overheard a troubling conversation. Maggie Nichols, Jantzi’s star gymnast who, at 14, made the U.S. women’s national team, was speaking with Aly Raisman, captain of the 2012 and 2016 gold-medal-winning Olympic teams.
Raisman told Outside the Lines that Nichols described treatment sessions she had with Nassar to her. Jantzi became so concerned about what she overheard that she notified Nichols’ mother and USA Gymnastics officials. Raisman said Nassar started abusing her when she was 15. She said he would give her desserts as treats, which were forbidden at the ranch, where the Karolyis closely monitored what the gymnasts ate.
“He was grooming me so he could molest me,” Raisman said.
Former national champion Mattie Larson said she tried to fake an injury — knocking her head into the tub in hopes of giving the appearance of a concussion — to avoid a trip to the Karolyi Ranch during her career because of the abusive environment there. Simone Biles, a 2016 gold medalist, said she was distraught over the idea of having to return to the Texas camp to train for upcoming events. Biles publicly stated earlier this month, via a Twitter post, that she too was abused by Nassar.
“It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences,” Biles wrote. “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.”
Parents were not allowed to stay with their daughters at the Huntsville, Texas, training camp. When previously contacted by ESPN for comment on a recent story that outlined the abuse women suffered under the care of USA Gymnastics, Marta Karolyi declined to comment on behalf of her family.