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Victims of disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor ask Texas to take action

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Victims of a former USA Gymnastics doctor sentenced to life in prison for molesting nearly 200 female athletes urged Texas on Thursday to step up its investigation of suspected sexual abuse that took place at a team training center in the state.

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They also accused Martha Karolyi, under whose coaching U.S. gymnasts have consistently won medals since the 1990s, of criminal activity for not reporting team doctor Larry Nassar’s alleged child abuse at the gymnastics ranch run with her husband Bela Karolyi in Huntsville, Texas.

“She did worse than nothing. She stayed silent,” John Manly, an attorney for several gymnasts abused by Nassar, said at a news conference in Austin.

The athletes want a Texas investigation started in January to move more quickly, and they want Martha Karolyi indicted for failure to report child endangerment. The Karolyi gymnastics ranch is inactive.

Neither Martha nor Bela Karolyi were immediately available for comment.

In an interview with TV network NBC aired last month, the couple said they knew nothing about the suspected sexual assaults at their training camp.

“The whole thing is just like an explosion, a bomb exploding,” Bela Karolyi said. Martha Karolyi said she had no way of knowing Nassar had been sexually abusing athletes.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked the state’s top police agency, the Texas Rangers, in January to investigate Karolyi Ranch. Officials in Walker County, where it is located, are participating.

The gymnasts accused the state of dragging its heels.

“I can’t understand why this is not taken seriously in Texas right now. How many little girls and young women does it take to take sexual abuse seriously,” said Jamie Dantzscher, 2000 Olympic bronze medalist who was allegedly molested by Nassar at the ranch.

So far there have been no indictments in Texas for the Nassar scandal, which has mostly played out in Michigan courts. Nassar was a doctor at Michigan State University and many gymnasts were abused at a training facility in the state.

“We are confident that the Texas Rangers, in coordination with the Walker County District Attorney and Walker County Sheriff’s Office, will complete a thorough investigation that will achieve justice for the victims of these alleged crimes,” the Texas Attorney General’s office said in a statement.

At a sentencing hearing in Michigan this year, victims said some of the sexual abuse took place at the ranch.

Built in the 1980s, it included training gyms, a dance studio and housing for 300 athletes, coaches and administrators.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman