USA Gymnastics has announced the termination of their lease to hold training camps for its national women’s team at Karolyi Ranch, the world-famous gymnastic training facility in Texas. This is a result of the horrific personal stories of sexual abuse at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar coming from young women, including some Olympic gold medal winners, who train there. The 2,000-acre ranch is owned by Bela and Martha Karolyi, former national team coordinators.
Dr. Larry Nassar, the former national team doctor from Michigan, pled guilty to seven state charges in Michigan of criminal sexual conduct and now faces an expected sentence of life in prison. Over 100 of his victims asked to appear in the courtroom and some to present their statements in person at his trial.
Houston native and gold medalist Simone Biles, currently training for the 2020 Olympics, said going back to the ranch to train would “break her heart”. Now she won’t have to worry about that. The new president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, Kerry Perry, has worked since December to terminate the lease and is looking for an alternative facility. Also, the purchase of a portion of the ranch has been canceled.
“It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December,” Perry said. “Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes.”
USA Gymnastics had announced plans in 2016 to purchase the 36-acre portion of the 2,000-acre ranch that included the gymnasium and residential complex where top gymnastics gathered monthly for training sessions, but that agreement was canceled after word of the charges against Nassar emerged later that year.
Gold medalist Aly Raisman bravely gave her statement in court.
Raisman delivered a victim impact statement in a Lansing, Michigan, courtroom Friday – on the fourth day of a sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar during which some 120 girls and women are expected to testify.
Raisman told Nassar he will sit in prison suffering and replaying the words delivered by a “powerful army of survivors.” She says she still loves gymnastics and adds that if just one adult had listened to children over the past 30 years, “this tragedy could have been avoided.”
The 54-year-old Nassar faces a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years in prison for molesting girls at Michigan State University and his home. He also was a team doctor at USA Gymnastics. He already has been sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography crimes.
And now Michigan State University Board of Trustees is feeling the heat. From this article in Crain’s Detroit Business:
Boards of directors at public universities — and publicly traded companies — have one primary obligation: to hire and fire the chief executive officer. They have another duty, too: To ensure that risks to the institution are minimized.
In the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case, the board of trustees at Michigan State University has failed at both.
MSU President Lou Anna Simon should have resigned by now — or been fired. At this stage of the game, the board chair, former retail executive Brian Breslin, and Vice Chair Joel Ferguson should exit, too.
On Friday, the board called for Attorney General Bill Schuette to lead an inquiry. That’s yet another mistake. Schuette is running for governor, and any investigation could become a politicized process.
The Karolyi’s have not commented publicly about Dr. Nassar and have not admitted knowledge of the abuse. This is a sad ending for the couple who have trained champion gymnasts since the 1980s.
USA Gymnastics’ decision to terminate its arrangement with the Karolyi Ranch is only the latest fraying in a relationship that began when then USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi invited Bela Karolyi to help revitalize the national women’s gymnastics program after poor finishes at world championships in the 1980s. Bela, the famed Romanian coach of Olympic champions Nadia Comeneci and Mary Lou Retton, along with his wife Martha, devised a decentralized training system in which gymnasts would train with their individual coaches but come together for a week, once a month, to train as a team under the Karolyi’s’ guidance. The system was a hybrid of the siloed U.S. coaching structure and the centralized eastern European strategy that seemed to produce consistent results.
In all likelihood, Dr. Nassar will die in prison. After that, I expect him to rot in hell.