A man who wrestled for Ohio State University about 30 years ago says university officials, including an assistant coach who is now a US congressman, knew about allegations of sexual abuse by a doctor who treated members of the school’s athletic teams.
Mike DiSabato, who competed in four seasons between 1987 and 1991, said Tuesday that he believes Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who is a founder of the House Freedom Caucus, knew about the alleged abuse by team doctor Richard Strauss during the eight years Jordan was an assistant coach.
Others who also knew included the team’s coach and the school’s athletic directors, DiSabato said. They could not be reached for comment.
Jordan has denied knowing about any allegations of abuse and said he will cooperate with investigators.
Strauss died in 2005.
Here’s what we know about the allegations and the investigation commissioned by the university.
What does DiSabato say happened?
DiSabato said he was groped by Strauss dozens of times.
“I never saw Doc Strauss over a nine-year time frame (including DiSabato’s time as a graduate student) where he didn’t ask me to — where I went to see him for medicine or whatever, finger injury, shoulder, knee — where he did not want to examine my testicles,” he said. “He groped. Every time.”
He said he was forced to let it happen.
“If you wanted your meds, if you wanted to stay healthy … so that you could stay on scholarship, you grinned and beared it, so to speak,” he said.
DiSabato later said his first interaction with Strauss was when he was a 14-year-old. Strauss, he said, was conducting research on body fat and high school wrestlers, and DiSabato was a subject.
The body fat test included a genital exam, something “I know (now) to be unnecessary,” DiSabato said.
Why does he think Jordan knew about the reported abuse?
The former wrestler said he was close with Jordan and coach Russ Hellickson. That Strauss was a “serial groper” was talked about openly in the team’s locker room and known throughout the athletic department, he said.
DiSabato said he doesn’t know what Jordan did with the information, and he didn’t blame the former coach for the doctor’s alleged conduct, saying Jordan — an OSU assistant coach from 1986 to 1994 — was not responsible for the abuse or the team’s training environment.
Jordan’s office said he “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.”
Jordan will assist investigators in any way they ask, “because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice,” according to his office’s statement.
CNN was unsuccessful in attempts to get comment from Hellickson.
What does DiSabato think about Jordan’s reaction?
DiSabato said the statement from Jordan’s office is “just not true.”
“I think the congressman may be playing semantics with the word. I don’t think Jim and/or a lot of folks — coaches, administrators — really understood that touching a man’s genitals without the need to do so is … a definition of sexual abuse and sexual assault,” DiSabato said.
Are there other people making similar allegations?
The university said it has received allegations of sexual misconduct by Strauss from male members of 14 sports teams and from patients of the school’s student health services unit.
The sports are baseball, cheerleading, cross country, fencing, football, gymnastics, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis, track, volleyball and wrestling.
A law firm looking into the case is also investigating whether Strauss examined high school students, the university said.
How many people have been interviewed?
According to the university, more than 150 people have been asked questions. They are described as former students and witnesses.
When did Strauss work for the university?
Strauss was employed from 1978 to 1998. He:
• joined the school’s clinical faculty and medical staff as an attending physician in September 1978;
• served as a team physician for the school’s sports teams from July 1981 to June 1995;
• was a part-time physician for the student health services unit from July 1994 to August 1996;
• resigned from the school’s medical staff at the end of 1994 but remained on faculty as professor emeritus until his retirement in July 1998.
What officials does DiSabato say knew about abuse allegations?
DiSabato said he told Jim Jones, the athletic director from 1987 to 1994, when he presented his master’s thesis on issues of substance and sexual abuse among athletes at the school.
DiSabato said he believes that Jones’ successor, Andy Geiger, also knew because DiSabato said two athletes told him they reported the abuse to Geiger.
CNN has reached out to Jones and Geiger, but neither has responded to requests for comment.
What has the university said about the allegations?
It said it began the investigative process in late March after a former student — DiSabato told CNN he talked with university officials that month — reported allegations of sexual misconduct.
“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. Once the independent investigation has been completed, we will be in a position to consider what further action may be appropriate.” The university said it also has been in contact with law enforcement and prosecutors in case a criminal investigation is warranted.
Ohio State said it also is “investigating whether, and to what extent, Dr. Strauss may have examined high school-aged students during his time at the university.”
Who is doing the investigation?
The law firm that represents the university hired another group, Perkins Coie, which has 19 offices in the United States and Asia, to conduct the inquiry.
There is no timetable for the investigation, officials said.