The Center of U.S. Gymnastics’ Success Is Now a Haunted House

The Center of U.S. Gymnastics’ Success Is Now a Haunted House

But for all the medals that flowed from the Karolyi ranch, it can no longer be the site of the national training center. The place is haunted now.


Simone Biles said on Monday that it “broke her heart” that she would have to train for the 2020 Olympics at the national team training facility where her abuse had occurred.

Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, the former national team doctor, has been accused of molesting gymnasts there, as well as in his home and other workplaces. He has pleaded guilty to sexual assault and is to be sentenced this week in Michigan, where about 100 women are expected to speak or submit written statements about what Dr. Nassar did to them. He is already serving a 60-year prison term on federal child pornography charges.

Simone Biles, one of the most decorated gymnasts in history and a star of the 2016 Rio Olympics, on Monday became the latest athlete to add her name to the long list of Nassar’s accusers. Ms. Biles made a point of saying that she dreads training 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,” she wrote on Twitter and Instagram.

Dr. Roy Lubit, a New York-based psychiatrist who focuses on emotional trauma in abused children, said Ms. Biles’s comment should be heeded.

“It’s a very, very bad idea to send these girls back to this training center,” Dr. Lubit said, explaining that returning to a place of abuse tends to be a powerful trigger for traumatic memories to come rushing back.

U.S.A. Gymnastics, which is facing multiple lawsuits related to sexual abuse, responded to Ms. Biles’s revelation on Monday by saying it “will continue to listen to our athletes” and try to create “a culture of empowerment” for them.

Yet the federation has been slow to give up the Karolyi property and find a new space for its training center.


Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, who pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges in November, listened to statements from some of his accusers at a sentencing hearing on Tuesday in Michigan.

Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

Not that long ago, U.S.A. Gymnastics planned to buy the facility. Then Dr. Nassar’s crimes became public. Gymnast after gymnast spoke up, recounting the confusion and horror of being subjected to Dr. Nassar’s “intravaginal treatments,” which he described as legitimate medical therapy.

In mid-2017, the federation announced that it had backed out of the deal to buy the ranch. In a statement, it described “unexpected financial expenditures associated with the purchase” as one of the reasons the deal went bad.

U.S.A. Gymnastics has been looking for a new national team training site. And looking. And looking. Even a temporary solution would be enough. The inaction speaks loudly — and falls short of the promise to “listen to our athletes.”

“One thing critical for healing is that the abused feels in control and is given choices,” Dr. Lubit, the psychiatrist, said. “But what’s happening now is the gymnastics committee is saying, ‘We’re not making any accommodations to make you comfortable.’ In and of itself, that’s yet another betrayal. It’s an abusive type of situation.”

As of Tuesday night, the federation had not responded to emailed questions about the training center, but the organization’s website listed a five-day camp for the national team at the ranch next week. The site also says the schedule is subject to change.

When U.S.A. Gymnastics received the original reports of abuse, officials didn’t take them seriously enough. The federation lumbered through five weeks of internal investigation before contacting a law enforcement agency.

At this point, there may be few ways for the organization to make amends without lawyers setting the terms. The opportunity to relocate the national team training center seems like a rare exception — if not to make up for the past, then to live up to promises about the future.

Ms. Biles has been clear about what she needs, and presumably what others need, as well.

Listen to the athletes.

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