DIMONDALE, MI (WLNS) – Members of the Twistars Gymnastics community are being asked to send a letter of support for it’s owner, John Geddert, just a few days after USA Gymnastics suspended him for violating the organization’s “Safe Sport Policy.”
The letter, obtained by 6 News from a source who wishes to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, is asking gym members to send the letter of support to Mark Busby and USA Gymnastics President and CEO, Kerry Perry.
Busby was hired by USA Gymnastics in July 2017 to handle all information provided to USAG about potential abuse, direct any required investigations and coordinate cases with the U.S. Center for “SafeSport.”
“If there is anyway (SIC) you guys could write a letter to USA Gymnastics in support of John your history with them your knowledge of his coaching etc. that would be very helpful and as soon as possible,” it says. “We have only so many days to fight this and the more outpouring of support can only help love you all!”
USA Gymnastics suspended Geddert on Tuesday, saying he violated the organization’s “Safe Sport Policy.” It declined to comment any further.
One day later, Geddert sent a letter to members of the Twistars gym and their families, saying he’s retiring.
Geddert also denies the allegations made by USAG, saying he violated policy.
“Everything about our work is about safe, successful gymnastics. That’s why I am so incredibly disappointed in USA Gymnastics’ recent letter and its false allegations that I have violated Safe Sport Policy,” the letter reads.
6 News has reached out to Geddert several times over the last few weeks with a number of questions. He declined to comment, but through his attorney Chris Bergstrom, issued the following statement on Monday:
“At this time, Mr. Geddert only wishes to convey his heart-felt sympathy to all victims of Larry Nassar’s abuse. Any further comments will distract from the victims’ statements at Nassar’s sentencing before Judge Aquilina.”
Geddert was the head coach of the USA Gymnastics team during the 2012 Olympics. He led the “Fierce Five” – as they became known – to the team gold medal.
More than 140 women and girls are alleging in a civil lawsuit that Twistars Gymnastics Club, its owner John Geddert, MSU, and USA Gymnastics failed to protect them from Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse.
Nassar, the former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor, was sentenced Wednesday to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment.
Wednesday wrapped up Nassar’s 7-day sentencing hearing in Ingham County, where more than 150 women shared emotional stories detailing the abuse by Nassar saying it happened at MSU, Twistars, and at his home in Holt.
But many women, who spoke out in court against Nassar, also took aim at Geddert saying he created an abusive environment for young gymnasts.
One woman, who spoke in court anonymously, described how she came to know Nassar and Geddert as a gymnast in the 1990’s. 6 News is not naming her because the station does not identify victims of sexual assault without their consent.
“Those early years in the gym were brutal,” she said. “As I know you must remember. John was young and pushed all boundaries.”
“He [Geddert] was boss, the enforcer, the screamer, the thrower, the perfectionist, the one from whom we desperately sought approval, or even just some small sign that he actually cared for us and not just for winning,” she said.
6 News spoke with gymnast Lindsey Lemke and her mother, Christy about the allegations.
“While a gymnast would be in the spotting belt over a set of uneven bars, they would often get dropped from mid air, 15 feet up, if they made a mistake,” gymnast Lindsey Lemke said. “Geddert would let go of the ropes that controlled the belt and therefore the gymnast.”
Lemke also said there were other times when an athlete would make a mistake on the balance beam and Geddert would walk up to her and push her off it.
“He would take girls by the shoulders, squeeze hard enough to leave marks, shake them and yell directly into their face,” she said. “There was specifically one time where he picked up the vault hand mat and hit me with it because I couldn’t get my vault right that day and this was already after I had crashed into the vault hard enough to bruise and bleed.”
Lindsey, Christy and several other gymnasts also said Geddert mandated that gymnasts who trained at Twistars only see Larry Nassar for treatment.
“It would have to be Larry’s word and that’s it,” Lemke said. “It’s like no other doctor knew what he was doing.”
Gymnasts said they had no choice, it was Nassar, or their injuries went untreated.
However, Christy Lemke said the same wasn’t true for all male gymnasts at the club.
“None of the boys were required to see Larry,” she said. “They weren’t required to see Larry, just the girls. Why would the boys not have to see Larry? He had a team of boys.”
In December 2017, Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County, all but one charge is related to his role as a doctor.
He also pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Eaton County. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 31st.
The former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor already faces 60 years in prison for admitting to possessing child pornography in a separate case as well.