Society

Former USA Gymnastics Coach Commits Suicide After Facing Abuse Charges

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Questions Answered In This Post: 

  1. Who Was John Geddert And What Happened To Him?
  2. What Did He Do?
  3. What Are The Results of His Crimes?

John Geddert at the American Cup gymnastics meet at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2012. (Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

Who Was John Geddert and What Happened to Him?

John Geddert was an esteemed American gymnastics coach that led the United States National Team to London’s 2012 Summer Olympics. Additionally, he managed the acclaimed Twistars gym in Dimondale, Michigan, and worked alongside the infamously abusive Dr. Larry Nassar at Great Lakes Gymnastics Club in Lansing, Michigan. In 2018, Nassar was convicted of numerous counts of sexual assault and abuse, and Geddert, considered to be one of Nassar’s closest compliances, was removed from the USA gymnastics team soon after. Furthermore, he announced his retirement from Twistars, his own gym, only two days after this suspension. 

On Thursday, February 25th, 2021, Geddert was scheduled to go to the local Sheriff’s office at 2:15 that afternoon to be arrested for his crimes,  but did not appear. He was then found dead off of interstate I-96 in Clinton, Michigan, at approximately 3:20 pm. It was determined that he had committed suicide and had died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

What Did He Do?

Geddert has been reported for abusing his young female athletes to numerous authorities including the managements of the USA National Gymnastics team, Twistars, and Great Lakes Gymnastics for decades. However, it was just this past week when he was finally charged with 24 different felony charges by Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel. These charges included the following: 

  • Fourteen counts of human trafficking, forced labor causing injury, a 15-year felony
  • Six counts of human trafficking of a minor for forced labor, a 20-year felony
  • One count of continuing criminal enterprise, a 20-year felony
  • One count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, a life offense felony
  • One count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a 15-year felony
  • One count of lying to a police officer, a four-year felony

Specifically, he has been reported pushing athletes to work through serious physical injury and has deliberately caused physical harm to them during training. He would force his athletes to push through overwhelming physical pain, dismissing cries or screams, and continue to train. He also regularly utilized the process of ‘racking’, where he would put bodyweight force on the girls to push them through splits farther than they were capable of. One of his former athletes, Makayla Thrush, had her entire future in the sport ruined because of severe injuries inflicted by Geddert. Thrush said that Geddert had thrown her on top of the low bar of the uneven bars, rupturing the fragile lymph nodes in her neck, gave her a black eye, and tore muscles in her stomach, all causing such severe and permanent injuries that led to the termination of her gymnastics career.

Furthermore, his coaching method was consistently described as being not only physically abusive but also extremely mentally abusive to his athletes. Thrush further claimed that Geddert “told [her] to kill [herself], not just once but many other times”. Another former athlete of his, Sarah Klein, said that his cruel and violent manners towards the athletes “maintained a culture of fear” wherever he coached. She even said that “Geddert broke our spirits, broke our psyches, broke our bodies physically, caused us to believe we were so worthless that we should contemplate suicides.”

In addition to the physical and mental abuse, Geddert has sexually harassed and attacked numerous of his athletes. Specifically, he was reported to have penetrated one of his young athletes, between the ages of 13 and 16, and sexually attacked another athlete while she was in the locker room at the age of 14. 

On top of the deliberate attacks and abuse towards his athletes, it was well-known that Geddert had worked very closely with the infamous former gymnastics physician and sex offender, Larry Nassar. Geddert was so violent and fearful that it was unthinkable to most of the athletes to come to him to report the actions of Nassar, and the few who did were dismissed and unheard. For instance, Olympic gold-medalist, McKayla Maroney, had recounted a car ride with Geddert where she deliberately disclosed the sexual abuse that had been inflicted on her by Nassar, but Geddert had claimed not to hear of it and took no action. Furthermore, he even lied to the police about his knowledge of Nassar’s actions, a criminal offense which he was charged for. 

John Geddert, coach of the U.S. women’s team, stands during the Olympic Women’s Team Gymnastics competition at North Greenwich Arena in London on July 31, 2012.Marc Serota / AP file

What Are the Results of His Crimes? 

Victims of Geddert’s abuse across the United States are shaken, enraged, and devastated at the news of Geddert’s escape from justice. Seeing this as a deliberate admission of guilt, his victims, who have worked for decades to bring him to justice, are enraged that Geddert is not able to pay the price for his years of harm to these girls. Attorney General Nessel, after working with dozens of these girls, is heartbroken to know that, while many of them are still physically and mentally scarred from his actions, he is suffering no remorse. She reports that “The victims suffer from disordered eating, including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and self-harm, excessive physical conditioning, repeatedly being forced to perform even when injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including sexual assault”. The investigation into Geddert’s crime is merely a stepping stone towards the extreme reform of the United States gymnastics community and bringing these malefactors to justice. 

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/25/sports/john-geddert-gymnastics.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/former-u-s-gymnastics-coach-arrested-charged-alleged-sex-crimes-n1258862

https://www.espn.com/olympics/story/_/id/30964459/ex-usa-gymnastics-coach-john-geddert-kills-felony-charges

https://www.woodtv.com/news/michigan/michigan-ag-to-announce-results-of-lansing-area-criminal-investigation-expected-to-announce-charges-against-olympic-gymnastics-coach/

https://www.npr.org/2021/02/28/972217795/former-gymnast-sarah-klein-discusses-coach-john-gedderts-sex-abuse-charges

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