For many years the Karolyi Ranch in rural Texas was the ultimate way station for elite American gymnasts, a pressure-cooker training center where young women arrived with visions of Olympic glory. The chosen few left with tickets punched for the next Summer Games and expectations of a spot on the podium.
The ranch is no longer a steppingstone to stardom. The national governing body for gymnastics said on Thursday that it would sever ties with the Karolyi Ranch after a groundswell of criticism of the organization this week. The ranch was one of the places that a team doctor, Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, had molested gymnasts. Some athletes were dismayed that they would have to return to that scene for national team training.
“It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and C.E.O. in December,” Kerry Perry, the president of the organization, U.S.A. Gymnastics, said in a statement, without explaining why she had waited until Thursday to announce the decision. “We are exploring alternative sites to host training activities and camps until a permanent location is determined.”
Dr. Nassar, who abused gymnasts under the guise of giving them medical treatment, is expected to be sentenced in Michigan on Friday for a guilty plea to seven sexual assault charges.
U.S.A. Gymnastics has been under pressure for months to reconsider its use of the training center at the Karolyi Ranch. As of Tuesday night, the federation’s website listed a five-day camp for the national team at the ranch next week, though the listing for the camp was removed by Thursday.
A statement posted Monday on Twitter by Simone Biles, who is regarded as the top American gymnast in history, fueled a fierce backlash against U.S.A. Gymnastics for continuing to hold camps at the ranch.
“It breaks my heart even more to think that as I work toward my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” Ms. Biles wrote.
“I hope they don’t make any of the girls go back to the ranch,” Aly Raisman, one of Ms. Biles’s fellow Olympians, said on ESPN. “No one should have to go back there after so many of us were abused there.”
The ranch is in Huntsville, Tex., about 50 miles north of Houston, in the piney woods of Sam Houston National Forest, a popular hunting area for deer and other game. In 2001, it was designated as the national training center for United States women’s gymnastics, and, in 2011, it was named an Olympic training site.
The center played a crucial role in the building of American women into an international power that rivaled Russia, Romania and China. American gymnasts have won the gold medal in the women’s individual all-around competition at the last four Summer Olympics, and combined for gold in the women’s team all-around competition in 2012 and 2016.
Elite athletes met for monthly camps at the ranch, which was equipped with a gymnastics center, medical facility, dining and lodging facilities, but was secluded and had unreliable cellphone service. Also, families were not invited.
In such an out-of-the-way environment, Ms. Raisman told Time magazine in November, Dr. Nassar became a seeming ally, giving the gymnasts gifts and sweets. “He was always that person who would stick up for me and make me feel like he had my back,” Ms. Raisman told Time. “The more I think about it, the more I realize how twisted he was, how he manipulated me to make me think that he had my back when he didn’t.”
The ranch is owned by Bela and Martha Karolyi, the coaching couple who defected from Romania and became the guiding force of U.S.A. Gymnastics. They have not been accused of being directly involved with Dr. Nassar’s criminal behavior, but some gymnasts who trained there have claimed that the atmosphere created by the Karolyis at the ranch enabled Dr. Nassar to get away with mistreating them.
The Karolyis have said that they are not at fault.
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