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USA Gymnastics Says They Will No Longer Use The Karolyi Ranch Training Center

Jan 18, 2018

On Thursday, USA Gymnastics announced they will stop using the Karolyi Ranch — the site of many of the atrocities committed against Olympians by Larry Nassar, the team's former doctor. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to New York Times reporter, Juliet Macur about what happens next as Nassar faces sentencing hearings this week.

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In a courtroom in Michigan this week, former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar faced dozens of women who he molested. They have been making victim-impact statements at his sentencing. A judge has said Nassar will go to prison. And until today, many of those victims were told by USA Gymnastics they would have to go back to the training center where Nassar abused them. It's in Texas, and it's run by gymnast legends Bela and Marta Karolyi. But late today came word that next week's training camp is canceled and U.S. gymnasts will never have to return to the Karolyi training center.

Juliet Macur has been following this story for The New York Times, and she's with us now. Welcome.

JULIET MACUR: Thank you.

MCEVERS: So you tweeted today that this move is thanks to the power of women speaking up. Talk about that.

MACUR: That's right. Simone Biles, who's one of the most decorated gymnasts in not only American history but in the history of the sport of gymnastics, tweeted on Monday that she was part of the #MeToo movement, and said that Dr. Larry Nassar had also molested her, along with many other people that Larry Nassar had molested. And said that she didn't want to go back to the ranch - she dreaded going back there - and that basically going back to this Karolyi Ranch, which is the national team training center, stood between her and making the team - the Olympic team for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

MCEVERS: And you actually talked to a child psychologist about that, about what it would mean for gymnasts who'd suffered abuse to go back to that place. What did he tell you?

MACUR: He immediately told me it was the worst idea possible to make these women, which - they have to be going back to the ranch if they're going to make the Olympic team - to go back to the place where they were abused, that it would be - that it would be traumatic, that it would cause more painful memories to flood back, that - he actually said that USA Gymnastics would be abusing them again by doing this and it was yet another level of betrayal.

MCEVERS: Are there any more details about where the gymnasts will train?

MACUR: There are no details as far as I know. All I know is that CEO of USA Gymnastics Kerry Perry - she started at the end of last year - said that she had been thinking about closing the training center and did so today. And I'm not sure where they will go, but there are plenty of places where they could go and where they could've gone for the last several years.

MCEVERS: Will the Karolyis still be involved?

MACUR: The Karolyis actually don't coach anymore. Marta Karolyi was the national team training - national team coordinator most recently. And she retired at the last Olympics. So they do own the ranch. However, they don't coach anymore. So this will just be a financial blow to them, and that's about it.

MCEVERS: OK. USA Gymnastics, of course, is the governing body of this sport. And it's still dealing with the fallout from, you know, Larry Nassar's abuse. There are lawsuits. I mean, how will all of this affect them going forward? We've got two and a half years until the next Summer Olympics.

MACUR: I'm not sure how it will affect them, but it will definitely affect the sport. I'm sure there are many moms and dads out there who would think twice about putting their kids in gymnastics right now. The sport is facing - USA Gymnastics specifically is facing several lawsuits that have to do with the sex abuse. So I'm not sure how they will move forward. Right now the sport is in chaos, and I'm not sure what's going to happen.

MCEVERS: That's Juliet Macur, the Sports of the Times columnist for The New York Times. Thank you so much.

MACUR: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.