Multiple former Ohio State wrestlers have gone on the record accusing Jim Jordan, a prominent Republican Congressman from Ohio, of turning a blind eye to alleged sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss, a longtime Ohio State team doctor.
In April, Ohio State announced an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Strauss, who died in 2005 at age 67, after one alleged victim came forward saying he and other athletes were abused by Strauss “from the mid-1970s to the 1990s.” Jordan, an assistant coach for the Buckeyes from 1986 to 1994, has denied having any knowledge of the alleged abuse.
However, several of his former wrestlers told NBC News that they have a hard time believing that to be the case.
Three former wrestlers told NBC News that it was common knowledge that Strauss showered regularly with the students and inappropriately touched them during appointments, and said it would have been impossible for Jordan to be unaware; one wrestler said he told Jordan directly about the abuse.
Former head coach Russ Hellickson, Jordan’s mentor, said in a recent video — made by Mike DiSabato, a former wrestler — that Hellickson had told Strauss that he was being too “hands on” with students. DiSabato, whose allegations against Strauss prompted Ohio State to open its investigation, called Jordan a “liar.”
“I considered Jim Jordan a friend,” DiSabato said. “But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.”
When reached by NBC, Jordan, through a spokesperson, once again denied having any knowledge of Strauss’ alleged misdeeds.
Jordan became the U.S. Rep. for Ohio’s 4th district in 2007, founded the House Freedom Caucus and has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
Three former Ohio State wrestlers come forward
DiSabato says he was sexually assaulted by Strauss and told the university about it on multiple occasions. Another former OSU wrestler, Dunyasha Yetts, told NBC he once went to Strauss who “started pulling down” his shorts after he visited the doctor with a thumb injury. Following that incident, Yetts said he told coaches, including Jordan, what happened. On top of that, a third former OSU wrestler who requested anonymity told NBC that rumors about Strauss were so prevalent that Jordan could not have possibly avoided them.
A former teammate of DiSabato’s who asked not to be identified said he never told Jordan directly that Strauss had abused him. But there is no way Jordan could have avoided the rumors “because it was all over the locker room.”
“I love Jimmy to death,” the ex-wrestler said. “It was a head-scratcher to me why he would say he didn’t know anything. Doc used to take showers with the team even though he didn’t do any workouts, and everybody used to snicker about how you go into his office for a sore shoulder and he tells you to take your pants down.”
Details of Ohio State’s investigation
Ohio State commissioned an independent investigation in April and announced in May that the investigation had expanded after athletes from an array of programs — not just wrestling — came forward, including football, gymnastics, ice hockey, volleyball and more. In all, Ohio State says it has received “reports of sexual misconduct committed by Strauss” from athletes in 14 sports.
At that time, the school divulged that Strauss also worked at the Ohio State medical center and student health center, meaning he treated students outside of athletics, as well. The school says it has received reports from patients from Student Health Services.
The school told NBC that “more than 150 former students and witnesses” have been interviewed thus far by the law firm, Perkins Coie, that is leading the investigation. In May, the school said the investigation was referred to local authorities “for any potential criminal investigation.”
“Our efforts will continue to be focused on uncovering what may have happened during this era, what university leaders at the time may have known, and whether any response at the time was appropriate,” the university said in a statement to NBC. “Once the independent investigation has been completed, we will be in a position to consider what further action might be appropriate.”
Jordan is expected to be questioned, per NBC, but has not yet been interviewed.
Larry Nassar, Michigan State scandal prompts victims to come forward
DiSabato said the scandal involving former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar prompted he and other former Ohio State athletes to speak out about the abuse they say they endured from Strauss.
DiSabato estimates that hundreds of Ohio State athletes could have been assaulted by Strauss.
From NBC News:
“Strauss sexually assaulted male athletes in at least fifteen varsity sports during his employment at OSU from 1978 through 1998,” DiSabato wrote in a June 26 email to Kathleen M. Trafford of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, the Columbus-based law firm that represents Ohio State. “Athlete victims include members of the following programs: football, basketball, wrestling, swimming, cheerleading, volleyball, lacrosse, gymnastics, ice hockey, soccer, baseball, tennis, track and cross country.”
Chillingly, DiSabato added: “Based on testimony from victim athletes from each of the aforementioned varsity sports, we estimate that Strauss sexually assaulted and/or raped a minimum of 1,500/2,000 athletes at OSU from 1978 through 1998.”
Jordan was an accomplished wrestler
Before rising to political prominence, Jordan, an Ohio native, was a two-time NCAA wrestling champion at the University of Wisconsin. Notably, he defeated future Olympic gold medalist John Smith to win the NCAA title in 1985.
After his collegiate career ended, he returned to Ohio to get his master’s degree and serve as an assistant coach at Ohio State for eight years. From there, he entered the political world.
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