Miami Herald

Ex-U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach charged, kills himself

John Geddert, a former gymnastics coach with ties to disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar, killed himself after being charged with sexual abuse, human traffickin­g.

- BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS AND ED WHITE

A former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach with ties to disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar killed himself Thursday, hours after being charged with turning his Michigan gym into a hub of human traffickin­g by coercing girls to train and then abusing them, authoritie­s said.

John Geddert was supposed to appear in an Eaton County court, near Lansing.

His body was found at a rest area along Interstate 96, according to state police. No other details were immediatel­y released.

“This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

Nessel earlier announced that Geddert

was charged with two dozen crimes, including sexual assault, human traffickin­g and running a criminal enterprise. The charges were the latest fallout from the sexual abuse scandal involving Nassar, a former Michigan State University sports doctor now in prison.

Geddert, 63, was head coach of the 2012 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, which won a gold medal. He was long associated with Nassar, who was the Olympic team’s doctor and also treated injured gymnasts at Twistars, Geddert’s Lansing-area gym.

Among the charges, Geddert was accused of lying to investigat­ors in 2016 when he denied ever hearing complaints about Nassar. But the bulk of the case against him involved his gym in Dimondale and how he treated the young athletes whose families paid to have them train under him.

The charges against Geddert had “very little to do” with Nassar, said Assistant Attorney General

Danielle Hagaman-Clark.

Geddert was charged with using his strong reputation in gymnastics to commit a form of human traffickin­g by making money through the forced labor of young athletes.

“The victims suffer from disordered eating,” Nessel said, “including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and attempts at self harm, excessive physical conditioni­ng, repeatedly being forced to perform even when injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including sexual assault.

“Many of these victims still carry these scars from this behavior to this day,” the attorney general said.

Nessel acknowledg­ed that the case might not fit the common understand­ing of human traffickin­g.

“We think of it predominan­tly as affecting people of color or those without means to protect themselves … but honestly it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” she said. “Young impression­able women may at times be vulnerable and open to traffickin­g crimes, regardless of their stature in the community or the financial well-being of their families.”

Geddert was suspended by Indianapol­is-based USA

Gymnastics during the Nassar scandal. He told families in 2018 that he was retiring.

On his LinkedIn page, Geddert described himself as the “most decorated women’s gymnastics coach in Michigan gymnastics history.” He said his Twistars teams won 130 club championsh­ips.

But Geddert was often portrayed in unflatteri­ng ways when Nassar’s victims spoke during court hearings in 2018.

“What a great best friend John was to Larry for giving him an entire world where he was able to abuse so easily,” said gymnast

Lindsey Lemke. “You two sure do have a funny meaning of friendship.

You, John Geddert, also deserve to sit behind bars right next to Larry.”

Rachael Denholland­er, the first gymnast to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse in 2016, said she was proud of the women who stepped forward against Geddert.

“So much pain and grief for everyone,” she said on Twitter after Geddert’s death. “To the survivors, you have been heard and believed, and we stand with you.”

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