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Gymnastics: Texas Rangers asked to investigate abuse at Karolyi Ranch

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Washington (AFP)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott requested Tuesday an investigation by the Texas Rangers into sexual assault allegations at Karolyi Ranch, until recently the training ground for America's top gymnasts.

More than 150 women have detailed sexual misconduct and abuse, much of it at the remote facility near Houston, in testimony against Larry Nassar, the former US team doctor who worked at the ranch and was sentenced last week to as much as 175 years in prison for sexual abuse.

"The public statements made by athletes who previously trained at the Karolyi Ranch are gut-wrenching," Abbott wrote in a letter to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

"Those athletes, as well as all Texans, deserve to know that no stone is left unturned to ensure that the allegations are thoroughly vetted and the perpetrators and enablers of any such misconduct are brought to justice.

The people of Texas demand, and the victims deserve, nothing less."

Among those who spoke out was Simone Biles, a 2016 gold medalist who said she was upset by the thought of having to return to Karolyi Ranch, where she says Nassar abused her, to train for 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 toward 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 statement posted on Twitter.

USA Gymnastics cut ties earlier this month with the ranch, overseen by famed Romanian coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi, who have been accused of turning a blind eye to Nassar and creating an environment where he could thrive and abuse under the guise of medical treatment.

That included unsupervised visits to their rooms where, the women say, he molested them.

Several women spoke about how Nassar would earn the trust of athletes as a friendly contrast to the demeaning remarks and tough demands they would otherwise endure at the training facility.

Abbott commended the Walker County Sheriff's Office for its diligence in an ongoing investigation of "deeply disturbing" allegations that "demand thorough and swift justice," but added that because criminal action has been implicated in other areas and states, it was important for the Rangers to collaborate in investigating all potential criminal conduct.

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