Faced with two dozen felony charges including human trafficking and criminal sexual conduct, former U.S. Olympic gymnastics coach John Geddert killed himself on Thursday. The suicide left the gymnastics world reeling after gymnasts had fought for years to bring him to justice for the mental and physical abuse they said they endured at his hands. They thought the time had finally come.
“John abused countless girls over the years; his suicide victimized us all over again,” said Sara Teristi, a former gymnast who trained under Geddert in the late ’80s and early ’90s. “I am thankful that the survivors will not have to endure a lengthy and painful trial, but I am saddened that the chance to see justice served has been stolen from us. We deserve better.”
Geddert was a hard-driving coach, running a high-level gymnastics club, Twistars, where he churned out star athletes in Lansing, Michigan. Over the years, he rose to become coach of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, ultimately bringing home the team gold. He also worked closely with Olympic doctor Larry Nassar, one of the most prolific sexual predators of our time, for nearly three decades. Nassar volunteered at Geddert’s gym, where the doctor sexually abused hundreds of girls in a back room while pretending to treat them.
Nassar is now behind bars for life. Geddert had been under investigation by law enforcement ever since Nassar’s sentencing in Michigan in 2018, when gymnasts spoke out about the abusive culture at his gym. In my own reporting for my book on the Nassar survivors, The Girls, a dozen gymnasts from across the decades described how they were berated, shoved, punished, mocked, and blamed for their injuries by Geddert. They told me how he enabled Nassar, making them vulnerable to the doctor’s sexual abuse.
Geddert was suspended by USA Gymnastics, the governing body for the sport, in January 2018. He then announced his retirement, saying in a letter to parents that the suspension was based on false allegations.
On Thursday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced 24 criminal charges against 63-year-old Geddert, including human trafficking, continuing criminal enterprise, criminal sexual conduct, and lying to a police officer during a violent crime investigation.
The attorney general said in a statement that Geddert’s treatment of young gymnasts “constitutes human trafficking as he reportedly subjected his athletes to forced labor or services under extreme conditions that contributed to them suffering injuries and harm. Geddert then neglected those injuries that were reported to him by the victims and used coercion, intimidation, threats, and physical force to get them to perform to the standard he expected.” The criminal sexual conduct charges stemmed from Geddert’s reportedly digitally penetrating a victim who was “at least 13 but less than 16 years of age,” according to the charging documents. An attorney for Geddert did not respond to a request for comment.