John Geddert, ex-Olympics gymnastics coach facing charges dies by suicide

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

John Geddert rose to the heights of the gymnastics world, leading the gold medal-winning 2012 U.S. women's gymnastics team before scandal caused a fall from grace.

By 2018, six years after his triumph at the London Olympics, Geddert had been suspended by USA Gymnastics and he was forced into retirement. The co-owner of the Twistars USA gymnastics club became a target of a state investigation looking into the sexual abuse scandal of an associate-turned-felon, former Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar.

Geddert was found dead from suicide on Thursday, a few hours after Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed human trafficking, sexual assault and racketeering charges against him. He was 63.

United States women's gymnastics coach John Geddert celebrates during the final rotation in the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Team final on Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on July 31, 2012 in London, England.

The 24 charges included one count each of first-degree criminal sexual assault, second-degree criminal sexual assault involving a minor, racketeering and lying to a police officer, Eaton County District Court records show. 

The Michigan native was the fourth person to be charged in connection with the Nassar scandal. Officials say only one charge, an accusation of lying to police in September of 2016, is linked to Nassar.

Before the scandal, Geddert was considered one of the most successful women's gymnastics coaches in Michigan history. 

Raised in Alpena, he was on the gymnastics team during high school. Geddert went on to earn a scholarship at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant. He majored in health and physical education/fitness, according to his LinkedIn profile page.

After college, he moved to Maryland for a five-year coaching stint under Gary Anderson, then the U.S. national coach.

He returned to Michigan and took over the girls' program at the Great Lakes Gymnastics club in Lansing.

By 1996, Geddert and his wife, Kathryn, launched Twistars USA near Lansing, which went on to become one of the top gymnastics clubs in the nation. Over 28 years, he and his team compiled a record of 2,445 wins in state championship competitions, his LinkedIn page said.

Geddert claimed to have coached more than 40 national champions at the junior Olympic and elite state levels, and was the longtime coach of world champion Jordyn Wieber.

After the U.S. women's team brought home the gold from the 2011 world championships in Tokyo, Geddert was chosen to lead the U.S. Olympics squad in London, where the team also won gold.

But critics said the success came at a high price.

Sarah Klein, who trained under Geddert for 10 years starting when she was 5, described the former coach's death as an "escape from justice" and "an admission of guilt" before he could face his reckoning.

"John Geddert’s escape from justice by committing suicide is traumatizing beyond words," Klein said. "He tortured and abused little girls, myself included, for more than 30 years and was able to cheat justice.

Twistars USA was the site where multiple victims of Nassar trained and said they were assaulted by the former Michigan State University physician. It was subsequently sold in the fallout from the Nassar scandal, managers announced on Facebook in February.

The Lansing State Journal reported that in 2011 and 2013, Michigan State Police investigated Geddert for assault and battery involving a Twistars worker and gymnast, but no charges were filed.

The latest criminal investigation of Geddert began after Nassar was incarcerated in February 2018, leading to the charges that allegedly involved fewer than 50 victims, Nessel said Thursday.

Staff Writer Sarah Rahal contributed.