Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
Simone Biles, working out at the Karolyi ranch in 2015, says the idea of returning there to prepare for the 2020 Olympics is difficult
The words ring more and more hollow with each statement USA Gymnastics issues.
Its best and its brightest were abused by someone whose sole job was to safeguard their physical well-being, and all the federation can offer are platitudes and vague promises.
"We are our athletes' advocates," USA Gymnastics said in a statement Monday, after Olympic champion Simone Biles, arguably the greatest gymnast ever, said she, too, was among at least 140 women and girls abused by Larry Nassar.
"USA Gymnastics will continue to listen to our athletes and our members in our efforts of creating a culture of empowerment with a relentless focus on athlete safety every single day."
You want to make a statement? A real one? Then shut down the national team training center at the Karolyi ranch in Texas.
It doesn't matter how often Nassar was at the training camps or that he abused gymnasts all over the world. The ranch is a painful reminder of the horrors he inflicted, and continuing to hold monthly camps there only traumatizes his victims further.
"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 said in her posts on Instagram and Twitter.
Can no one at USA Gymnastics see how cruel it is to force women to return month after month to the ranch, where ghosts lurk around every corner, as Nassar once did? Or are the higher ups at the federation too busy covering their own backsides to care?
USA Gymnastics has known about Nassar's abuse for 2 1/2 years. Yet it didn't decide until last spring to back out of its agreement to buy a parcel of the ranch from Bela and Martha Karolyi, who retired in 2016, and make it the national team's permanent training center, operated by USA Gymnastics.
And, according to minutes of a Dec. 9 board meeting, only in "early 2018" would the federation be ready to accept proposals for a new training facility.
A real sense of urgency there.
Federal and state officials managed to charge, convict and, as of Tuesday, begin the sentencing hearing for Nassar in less than 14 months, while USA Gymnastics has had twice that amount of time and is still dithering around on finding a new training facility.
USA Gymnastics didn't immediately respond Tuesday to an email from USA TODAY asking about its progress on finding a new national team training center.
It's true that there aren't many places that can accommodate 15 to 20 gymnasts, their coaches and national team staff for five days each month. But there are options. Such as the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where the men's national team holds camps and several members train full time.
National team coordinator Valeri Liukin owns two gyms in the Dallas area. Biles' parents have a massive, state-of-the-art complex in suburban Houston. Both of those areas, I'm told, also have hotels and major airports.
While USA Gymnastics might not consider those adequate permanent solutions, they don't need to be. Nor can inconvenience or expense be a concern.
The only thing that matters now is sparing the girls and women who were abused - and those struggling with the guilt of not seeing it - further trauma.
If that means finding a temporary home for the national team, or even several of them, so be it.
USA Gymnastics cannot undo the damage Nassar did to dozens of its athletes. But it can make sure they are not being traumatized again. Close the ranch. Immediately.
Find a space that hasn't been poisoned by Nassar and his unspeakable evilness.
Show the girls and women who were abused that there's some sincerity behind all those words.
Read More of Today's AB Headlines
Subscribe to Our Daily E-Newsletter