John Geddert’s suicide was an “escape from justice” and “traumatizing beyond words,” said Sarah Klein, a former gymnast who trained under the U.S. Olympic coach.
Geddert died by suicide Thursday after Michigan authorities announced several charges against him, including human trafficking. Geddert was the U.S. 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 entire 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 several gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment. Prosecutors said that charges against Geddert had nothing to do with the Nassar case, though Nassar treated gymnasts at the coach’s gym.
Rachel Denhollander, the first gymnast to accuse Nassar of sexual abuse, tweeted she was proud of those who levied accusations at Geddert.
“So much pain and grief for everyone,” she wrote. “To the survivors, you have been heard and believed, and we stand with you.”
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USA Gymnastics said late Thursday that the charges against Geddert would “lead to justice through the legal process.”
“With the news of his death by suicide, we share the feelings of shock, and our thoughts are with the gymnastics community as they grapple with the complex emotions of today’s events,” the statement read.
The 63-year-old was charged with first- and second-degree criminal sexual assault, 20 counts of human trafficking, forced labor, six counts of human trafficking of a minor, forced labor, operating a criminal enterprise and lying to police in the Nassar investigation.
Prosecutors acknowledged that the human-trafficking charges were uncommon use of Michigan law.
“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,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel 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.”
Nessel added: “It is alleged that John Geddert used force, fraud and coercion against young athletes that came to him for gymnastics training for financial benefit to him. The victims suffered from disordered eating, including bulimia, 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.”
Geddert was allowed to surrender himself to authorities but never showed up. Nessel’s spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said there had been “no indication” that he was going to harm himself.
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Geddert’s body was found at a rest area on Interstate 96, police said.
“This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved,” Nessel added.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.