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The suicide of the ex-USA Gymnastics coach who faced abuse charges was an ‘escape from justice,’ former gymnast says

The death of John Geddert, the US Olympic team coach who was charged with 24 felonies in connection with the abuse of young gymnasts, was an “escape from justice,” said Sarah Klein, one of the many athletes who reacted to his suicide on Thursday.

“He tortured and abused little girls, myself included, for more than 30 years and was able to cheat justice,” said Klein, who had identified herself as the first to be abused by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.

Geddert, who took his own life Thursday after news of the charges, was the former owner of Michigan’s famed Twistars Gymnastics Club. It was one of the places Nassar had admitted to sexually abusing young female athletes. Twistars has since been sold and renamed.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel called Geddert’s death “a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved.”

The attorney general’s office had “no indication” Geddert “intended to flee or hurt himself or others,” a spokesperson for the office said in a statement Friday. The office had “been in contact with his attorney,” the spokesperson said, and was “assured of his cooperation.”

Geddert was facing 14 counts of human trafficking-forced labor resulting in injury, six counts of human trafficking of a minor for forced labor, and one count each of continuing criminal enterprise, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, second-degree criminal sexual conduct and lying to a peace officer during a violent crime investigation.

In her statement Thursday, Klein also blamed officials at the top gymnastics organizations for “enabling” Geddert.

“Geddert was a narcissistic abuser. His suicide is an admission of guilt that the entire world can now see. Also guilty are his enablers including the top officials at USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee who promoted him, enabled him and allowed him to coach Team USA,” Klein said.

Other gymnasts were equally troubled.

Rachael Denhollander, the former gymnast who first made Nassar’s abuse public in a September 2016 story in the Indy Star tweeted, “Geddert’s choice today was his, and his alone. What each survivor did was put an end to the abuse and save others.”

Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman said she was “sick to my stomach.”

She added in a tweet: “Thinking of the survivors out there. Wish there was more I could say to ease the pain & suffering.”

Klein was one of over 150 victims who spoke about how they went to Nassar to receive treatment for sports injuries only to be sexually assaulted and told it was a form of treatment.

“The bravery of Geddert’s many victims will stand for all time in stark contrast to his cowardice. As a survivor and a mother of two young girls, my only comfort is in the knowledge that I can rest my head on the pillow every night knowing that John Geddert will never terrorize and abuse another child,” Klein said.

She also called Geddert “an intimidating coach” who made it difficult to speak up.

“My abuse by Larry Nassar began at the age of 8 while I was training at John Geddert’s elite gymnastics gym. The abuse continued throughout my time training at Geddert’s gym, more than 10 years. Geddert was an intimidating coach and maintained a culture of fear that made it impossible for young girls to approach him and report Nassar’s abuse,” she said.

Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison in 2018, after more than 150 women and girls said in court that he sexually abused them over decades.

USA Gymnastics, for its part, said that it had hoped the criminal charges 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 said.

Article Topic Follows: National-World

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