John Geddert’s suicide was an “escape from justice” and “unspeakable trauma,” said Sarah Klein, a former gymnast who trained with the United States Olympic coach.
Geddert committed suicide Thursday after Michigan authorities announced several charges against him, including human trafficking. Geddert was the US Olympic coach for the 2012 team that won a gold medal in London with a team that included Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney.
“His suicide is an admission of guilt that the whole world can now see,” Klein, who is now a lawyer, said Thursday.
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Geddert had ties to Larry Nassar, the disgraced sports doctor who was convicted of sexually assaulting multiple gymnasts on the pretext of receiving medical treatment. Prosecutors said the charges against Geddert had nothing to do with the Nassar case, although Nassar treated the gymnasts in the coach’s gym.
Rachel Denhollander, the first gymnast to accuse Nassar of sexual abuse, tweeted that she was proud of those who accused Geddert.
“So much pain and pain for everyone,” he wrote. “For the survivors, you have been heard and believed, and we support you.”
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USA Gymnastics said Thursday night that the charges against Geddert “would lead to justice through the legal process.”
“With the news of her death by suicide, we share feelings of shock and our thoughts are with the gymnastics community as she deals with the complex emotions of today’s events,” the statement read.
The 63-year-old woman was charged with criminal sexual assault in the first and second degree, 20 counts of human trafficking, forced labor, six counts of trafficking in persons of a minor, forced labor, operating a criminal enterprise and lying to police in the Nassar Research.
Prosecutors acknowledged that human trafficking charges were a rare use of Michigan law.
“We think it primarily affects people of color or people without means to protect themselves … but honestly, it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “Impressionable young women can sometimes be vulnerable and open to trafficking offenses, regardless of their stature in the community or the financial well-being of their families.”
Nessel added: “It is alleged that John Geddert used force, fraud and coercion against the young athletes who came to him to train gymnastics for financial gain for him. The victims suffered from eating disorders including bulimia, anorexia, attempts suicide and self-harm, excessive physical conditioning, being repeatedly forced to act, even when injured, extreme emotional abuse, and physical abuse, including sexual assault. “
Geddert was allowed to turn himself in to authorities, but never showed up. Nessel’s spokeswoman, Kelly Rossman-McKinney, said there was “no indication” that she was hurt.
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Geddert’s body was found in a rest area on Interstate 96, police said.
“This is a tragic ending to a tragic story for everyone involved,” added Nessel.
If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Associated Press contributed to this report.