Twistars owner required gymnasts to see Nassar for treatment, victims say

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DIMONDALE, MI (WLNS) – John Geddert mandated that gymnasts who trained at Twistars only see Larry Nassar for treatment.

That’s according to parents and gymnasts who once trained at the gym.

Earlier today, USA Gymnastics announced that it suspended Geddert “under the interim measures provisions of Section 10.5 of USA Gymnastics’ Bylaws.” It declined to comment any further.

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 Nassar’s sexual abuse.

Nassar faces a minimum of 25 to 40 years in prison and a maximum sentence of up to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting seven girls in Ingham County. He also pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three in Eaton County. He admitted to possessing child pornography in a separate case as well.

“It would have to be Larry’s word and that’s it,” Lindsey 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.

“Because this is the doctor that John brought into the gym, for us,” Lemke said.

However, Christy Lemke, Lindsey’s mother, 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.”

Both Christy and Lindsey say, while it was an option for the male gymnasts, it was not a requirement like the girls.

“He [Geddert] gave Larry the candy shop to work in,” Christy said.

Lindsey said no other doctor mattered, unless Nassar referred them to someone for surgery.

“It was like a slap in the face to John that you would go see another doctor,” Lemke said. “Because Larry is John’s friend, so that’s mean to Larry because you don’t trust Larry.

Bayle Pickel said that if the gymnasts sought anyone else for treatment, Geddert  would not accept the doctor’s note.

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 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.”

During victim impact statements last week for Nassar’s sentencing hearings, Pickel called out Geddert for allowing the abuse to happen under his watch.

“Shame on your John for still allowing us from seeing you [Larry] when he even banned you [Larry] from coming into our gym [Twistars],” she said.

When Isabell Hutchins started to have lower leg pain in 2011, Geddert told her to see Nassar.

“Larry did a physical exam at his office and thought that nothing was wrong, so I had to keep practicing,” Hutchins said. “And even though I was in a lot of pain, if Larry said nothing was wrong, then nothing was wrong.”

Hutchins said she practiced for about a month longer, competing regionals and making it to nationals.

“There was a practice before nationals where I couldn’t make my floor routine but John made me keep doing it over and over,” she said. “It got to the point where I was crying and could barely walk. I told him I couldn’t do it anymore because it hurt too bad, so he kicked me out of the gym and said I was a “spoiled f-ing brat” and that I was choosing not to compete at nationals.”

Hutchins said her mother took her to the ER to get X-rays.

“They showed that my leg was broken,” she said. “So for over a month I competed on a broken leg because Larry initially found nothing wrong, and I wasn’t allowed to get a second opinion.”

Other gymnasts, including Makayla Thrush, said it was “mandatory” that the gymnasts only see Larry.

“John would even be in the room with us so he ‘knew’ what our injuries were, and what restrictions we may have,” Thrush said. “If we didn’t see Larry, it was like everything that was wrong with us, wasn’t ‘valid’ we were just making it up, or something crazy like that.”

During victim impact statements made last week during Nassar’s sentencing hearing, several gymnasts described the type of relationship Nassar and Geddert had.

“John Geddert, Kathie Klages, and Larry Nassar had each other’s backs no matter what,” Larissa Boyce said.

Boyce said she told former MSU and USA Gymnastics coach Kathie Klages about the abuse in 1997. She said Klages silenced her and made her feel like it was her fault for questioning the treatment.

Amy Labadie, another victim of Nassar who spoke during his sentencing, said it makes “perfect sense that John Geddert enabled Larry Nassar,” referring to Nassar as the Bonnie to Geddert’s Clyde.

A 6 News investigation shows that it wasn’t just Geddert that supported Nassar.

Documents obtained by 6 News show that Nassar was quick to support Geddert when he was the center of a criminal investigation in 2013.

In that case, the Eaton County Prosecutor’s  Office said there was enough evidence to charge  Geddert, but allowed him to seek counseling instead.

Eaton County Prosecutor  Doug Lloyd told 6 News that  a “determination was made to resolve the case short of a plea.”

The report said that if  Geddert  did not complete counseling, the prosecutors office  would issue charges.

According to the report, two months later,  Geddert  completed counseling.  It is not clear what kind of counseling he was in or how long it lasted.

But during that investigation, documents show that on several occasions after the report was filed, John Geddert, his wife Kathryn, and Nassar contacted one of the gymnast’s family members through email, text message, and Facebook about the incident.

Police records show John Geddert texted the family member saying: “The accusations pending can put me on the banned list for USAG. That obviously puts my coaching career and this business in jeopardy.”

6 News obtained documents separate from what’s included in the Michigan State Police investigation that show Larry Nassar contacted that same family member through Facebook to let her know that the police had made a visit to Geddert’s home as a result of the assault and battery complaint filed against him.

He told the gymnast’s grandmother that the police visit itself has “taught him a lesson” and that she “should just have a talk with Geddert about the situation.”

“It is with the prosecutors office now if he is lucky, they will not see the validity. I guess that’s my biggest fear, that he gets away with it AGAIN and is nothing but hateful with us,” the grandmother said.

“Just ask to drop it, if you are not 100% sure you want to close John’s gym and have him banned from USAG for the rest of his life,” Nassar said. “If you are able to tell the PA [prosecutor’s office] to drop the case, it would go a long way for sure. Remember, this is not about John but also affects every family at the gym. If John makes changes, everyone wins. If John is banned from gymnastics, so many, many people are affected.”

“This is about right and wrong, what he did was wrong,” the grandmother said.

Tony Flores, Professor of Law for Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School said the messages sent from Nassar to the grandmother of the victim appear to fall under the “witness intimidation” statute, which is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.

Nassar’s attorney, Matt Newburg declined to comment.

“These messages are explicit in discouraging, influencing, attempting to influence, and or encouraging the victim’s behavior,” Flores said. “The other statements made in the messages could easily be read as subtle influences being used to discourage, influence, or encouraging the victim’s behavior.”

Flores added that Nassar’s behavior, or anyone who attempted to influence, or encourage the victim to purposely drop a valid case, would arguably fall under these sections of the statute.

As for the grandmother, she was left disappointed.

“But not surprised,” she said. “That is why rarely, if ever, anyone stands up to him. He gets away with it time and time again. If a parent wants their daughter to be successful in the sport you don’t cross him.” 

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