Looking the Other Way, Again?

Former Ohio State athletes have accused GOP congressman Jim Jordan of not acting when they were sexually abused by a now-deceased team doctor.

July 5, 2018
 
Congressman Jim Jordan

Republican U.S. Representative Jim Jordan has been drawn into Ohio State University’s investigation of a former team doctor who allegedly molested college athletes decades ago, with some ex-wrestlers accusing the congressman, a leader of archconservatives, of failing to stop the ongoing abuse.

Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994, coinciding with the tenure of Richard Strauss, who worked at the university until the late 1990s. Strauss was a team physician for about 14 years and also did a two-year stint in the campus health center. He died in 2005.

Ohio State announced the investigation into Strauss in April, and to date the institution has received reports of sexual misconduct from male former players in 14 different sports, among them baseball, cheerleading, cross country, fencing, football, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer and wrestling.

While Jordan has denied knowing anything about Strauss’s conduct, according to a new NBC News report former wrestlers directly told Jordan about it on multiple occasions.

Three former wrestlers who NBC interviewed said that Strauss’s abuse was essentially an open secret -- that everyone knew Strauss would shower with players and touch them inappropriately during checkups.

Dunyasha Yetts, a wrestler at Ohio State in 1993 and 1994, told NBC that once he went into Strauss’s office after he injured his thumb, and the doctor pulled down his pants. He said that that he and his teammates talked to Jordan about Strauss multiple times.

“For God’s sake, Strauss’s locker was right next to Jordan’s and Jordan even said he’d kill him if he tried anything with him,” Yetts told NBC.

The congressman was unaware of any misconduct, his spokesman, Ian Fury, said via email to Inside Higher Ed. Fury said that investigators had not contacted Jordan, but Jordan would be willing to assist them in any way possible “because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice.”

Ohio State has declined to say who has been interviewed in the investigation, though NBC reported that Jordan is among those who will be. Jordan is the founder of the House Freedom Caucus, a far-right group of federal lawmakers.

"Congressman Jordan never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State," Fury wrote in his email.

Another former wrestler, Mike DiSabato, called Jordan a “liar” to NBC.

DiSabato, whose report to Ohio State prompted the investigation, has said that Strauss sexually assaulted him. He told The Columbus Dispatch that he alerted the university of Strauss’s behavior in the ’90s.

“I considered Jim Jordan a friend,” DiSabato said to NBC. “But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.”

At the request of the university, the Ohio attorney general’s office appointed a law firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, which in turn engaged with the Seattle-based Perkins Coie LLP, for the investigation, which has also turned to whether Strauss treated high school students and others outside the university.

The firm has interviewed more than 150 former students and other witnesses, Ohio State said. Campus officials also contacted the Columbus Division of Police and the Franklin County prosecuting attorney’s office over the possibility of a criminal investigation.

“The university recognizes and appreciates the courage and assistance of those in our community who have come forward and contacted the independent investigators about former university physician Dr. Richard Strauss … we are deeply concerned for everyone who may have been affected by his actions,” Ohio State spokesman Chris Davey wrote in an email.

The abuse by Strauss recalls the similar actions of Larry Nassar, a longtime doctor and faculty member at Michigan State University who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting hundreds of women -- many but not all of them athletes at the institution.

After Nassar’s well-publicized trial, the university settled with Nassar’s victims from the institution for half a billion dollars, the largest settlement of its kind involving a university and sexual misconduct.

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