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USA Gymnastics severs ties with Karolyi Ranch

(Reuters) - USA Gymnastics has terminated its agreement with the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas where a number of top gymnasts have said they were victims of sexual abuse by former team physician Larry Nassar, the ruling body said on Thursday.

Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, stands in the courtroom during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The facility has been used for regular training camps but USA Gymnastics said in a statement it has canceled next week’s session and is exploring alternative sites until a permanent location is found.

Earlier this week, four-times Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles said she was sexually abused by Nassar and that it would be too traumatic to return to the Karolyi Ranch as she worked toward her goal of competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences 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,” Biles wrote in a letter posted on her Twitter account.

Nassar was sentenced last month to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges and is set to be sentenced this week in Michigan after pleading guilty to additional counts of criminal sexual conduct related to allegations he assaulted girls under the guise of medical treatment.

Three-times Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman told ESPN’s Outside the Lines this week that USA Gymnastics should stop sending athletes to the ranch.

“I hope USA Gymnastics listens because they haven’t listened to us so far. I hope they listen and I hope they don’t make any of the girls go back to the ranch. No one should have to go back there after so many of us were abused there,” she said.

The complex, opened by celebrated coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi in the mid 1980s, played a vital role in making the U.S. women’s team a dominant force in global competitions.

Located in the Sam Houston Forest, the facility includes training gyms, a dance studio, housing for 300 athletes, coaches and administrators and a dining hall.

It has been the home of several Olympic and world champions and was the designated Olympic training site for the USA Gymnastics National Team.

“It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December,” USA Gymnastics president and chief executive Kerry 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.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond