Olympic Coach John Geddert Allegedly Knew About Larry Nassar Abuse As Early As 1988

Former gymnast Sara Teristi says Geddert watched as Nassar abused her at a gym in Michigan when she was 14.

A former gymnast says John Geddert, the former U.S. women’s gymnastics Olympic coach, saw Larry Nassar sexually abuse her in the late 1980s when she was 14 years old.

Sara Teristi told author Abigail Pesta for an upcoming book about Nassar’s abuse that in 1988, Geddert watched as Nassar iced her nipples during what was supposed to be treatment for broken ribs. Time magazine published an excerpt of Pesta’s bookThe Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down on Thursday.

Geddert, who was the head coach for the women’s gymnastics team during the 2011 World Championships and the 2012 London Olympics, came up in the gymnastics world with Nassar and is infamously close to the now-imprisoned former U.S. team doctor. Teristi’s story would make her one of Nassar’s earliest known victims.

Geddert was suspended by USA Gymnastics in January 2018 over allegations of physical abuse. A few hours later, he announced his retirement. The sheriff’s office in Eaton County, Michigan, later said Geddert was under criminal investigation.

Teristi, whose last name was Faculak at the time, said that Nassar would hand-massage her chest with ice that had been frozen into little cups when she was training under Geddert at a gym in Michigan, according to the book excerpt. Over time, she said, Nassar’s ice “treatments” escalated from icing her over her leotard, to under her leotard, to under her leotard and sports bra, and eventually he pushed her leotard and bra all the way down so that her nipples were fully exposed.

Once the treatments became regular, Teristi said, Geddert joined. She alleged that as she lay topless in the training room, Geddert would joke about how small her 14-year-old breasts were.

“They would stand there and have a conversation right in front of me,” she said. “John would joke about how small my ‘tits’ were. He said if I was lucky, they would get bigger.”

Nassar, who’s serving three concurrent life sentences for child sexual abuse, is accused of serially sexually abusing over 500 athletes (nearly all of whom were young women) under the guise of medical treatment. During his 30-year tenure as a famed sports physician, he sexually abused hundreds of athletes while working for USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and Twistars, a gym in East Lansing, Michigan, owned by Geddert.

At the time Nassar began abusing her, Terisiti said she didn’t think much of it. She had no idea it was abuse, and she said Geddert’s verbally and physically abusive coaching style took away any sense of autonomy young athletes had while in his gym.

“Your body didn’t belong to you,” she said. “You didn’t get to make decisions about it.”

Geddert has been accused of physical and verbal abuse by dozens of his former gymnasts. During Nassar’s highly publicized January 2018 sentencing hearings, several survivors in impact statements accused Geddert of physical and emotional abuse. Many of the athletes credited Geddert’s abusive coaching style for allowing Nassar’s crimes to flourish.

Terisiti and many other athletes say Geddert routinely taunted gymnasts, made fun of their weight and forced them to continue training through dangerous injuries. Teristi said Geddert often failed to spot her and other gymnasts as punishment.

She said Geddert routinely made fun of an old injury that left a bump on her chest by calling her “third boob” at the gym. Teristi also alleged that at one practice she fell and landed on her hands and knees. She said that Geddert pinned her down and rode her back “in a sexual way” yelling: ”‘Ooh, baby, you like it like that!’” She was 12.

Teristi said Nassar went on to sexually abuse her further, anally penetrating her with his fingers during a “treatment” when she was 16. Nassar also invited Teristi to his home and had her take an ice bath for “research purposes” ― a ploy to abuse some of his earliest victims ― where she said Nassar also molested her.

When Teristi finally mustered the courage to quit gymnastics during her senior year of high school, she said she was afraid of how Geddert would react. Surprisingly, she said, Geddert was kind and told her she could come back to the gym whenever she wanted.

“Did he feel guilty for breaking me?” she wondered. “Was he trying to keep me there for Larry, or to keep me quiet about what Larry did to me?”

Support HuffPost

Popular in the Community