Former US Olympic Coach Geddert Commits Suicide After Human Trafficking Charges

February 25, 2021 Updated: February 26, 2021

A former U.S. Olympic coach committed suicide on Thursday after being charged with 20 counts of human trafficking, including six counts of trafficking of a minor for forced labor.

John Geddert, 63, killed himself, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said.

“My office has been notified that the body of John Geddert was found late this afternoon after taking his own life. This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved,” Nessel said in a statement.

The office had said earlier Thursday that Geddert was expected to surrender to authorities in Michigan’s Delta Township and be arraigned before the end of the day.

Geddert was accused of sexually assaulting at least one girl and engaging in physical abuse against others. The girls were under his care when he was the owner of Twistars USA Gymnastics Club.

During the 2012 Olympics, Geddert was the head coach for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.

The alleged crimes constitute human trafficking because he “reportedly subjected his athletes to forced labor or services under extreme conditions that contributed to them suffering injuries and harm” and “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,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said in a statement.

“Geddert sold his reputation as an Olympic-level coach and promised to unsuspecting parents that he could turn his students into world-class athletes, allowing them to secure college scholarships, the Attorney General’s office alleges. Under the guise of coaching, he reportedly subjected multiple young women to an environment of continued abuse, in which he also neglected advice of medical doctors – except that provided by Larry Nassar, who served for around 20 years as Geddert’s team physician and in-house medical expert at Twistars.”

Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 2017 for sexually assaulting gymnasts.

Geddert lied or misled authorities who were probing Nassar, according to new allegations from Michigan authorities.

Geddert was facing over 350 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

John Geddert
U.S. gymnasts Gabrielle Douglas (C), Mckayla Maroney (2D-L), coaches Jenny Zhang (R) and John Geddert (L) celebrate winning gold in the women’s team of the artistic gymnastics event of the London Olympic Games on July 31, 2012. (Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images)

Nessel announced last month that authorities executed search warrants at his residence and Twistars as part of her office’s investigation.

“Geddert was a US Olympics gymnastics coach who worked closely with Dr. Larry Nassar and at whose gymnastics club, Twistars, many of the Nassar victims were abused,” a spokeswoman for the attorney general said at the time.

Some girls who said they were abused by Nassar spoke out previously against Geddert, including Lindsey Lemke.

“What a great best friend John was to Larry for giving him an entire world where he was able to abuse so easily,” she said in court in 2018, the Associated Press reported. “You two sure do have a funny meaning of friendship. You, John Geddert, also deserve to sit behind bars right next to Larry.”

Nessel is also investigating Michigan State University over potential misconduct. The university employed Nassar, but had no connection to Geddert.

The investigation remains inconclusive because the university is withholding nearly 6,000 documents investigators need to complete it, Nessel said.

Nessel wrote a letter to the university’s board on Wednesday, asking them to authorize the release of the files.

In a statement, Dianne Byrum, chair of the board, said: “The MSU Board of Trustees has received the letter from the attorney general’s office and we plan to discuss the issue further in the coming weeks.”

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