Jim Jordan Claims Vindication, but Inquiry Says Talk of Abuse at Ohio State Was Rampant

 nytimes.com  05/17/2019 23:08:42   Catie Edmondson
If wed have known about it, wed have reported it, said Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio.CreditCreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

WASHINGTON  A major investigation into sexual abuse at Ohio State University found no hard evidence that coaches like Jim Jordan, now a prominent Republican in Congress, knew of a team doctors rampant sexual misconduct. But the 182-page report released on Friday said dozens of other coaches acknowledged that rumors of the doctors predatory behavior were rife.

Mr. Jordan, a former assistant wrestling coach who has denied knowing of the abuse or hearing any locker-room talk about it, claimed complete vindication on Friday. It confirms everything I said, he told reporters on Capitol Hill. If wed have known about it, wed have reported it. It confirms everything Ive said before. I didnt know about anything. If I wouldve, Id have done something.

[Read the Ohio State University investigation.]

The actual findings, however, were more ambiguous than that. The report said that the university physician, Richard H. Strauss, was infatuated with the wrestling team and timed his workouts so he could shower with the wrestlers.

Aside from one fencing coach, investigators wrote, we did not identify any other contemporaneous documentary evidence indicating that members of the O.S.U. coaching staff, including head coaches or assistant coaches, received or were aware of the complaints regarding Strauss sexual misconduct.

However, it continued, the Investigation Team received allegations from numerous student-athletes indicating that they talked about Strausss inappropriate genital exams and complained about Strausss locker-room voyeurism directly to  or in front of  O.S.U. coaching staff.

Wrestlers who worked with Mr. Jordan in the late 1980s and early 1990s continue to say that he did know of Dr. Strausss predatory behavior, and his claims of exoneration rankled some wrestlers.

How can he be vindicated? What hes doing now is throwing salt in the wound, said Dunyasha Yetts, a wrestler at the university in 1992 and 1993, who was one of the first and most outspoken victims to come forward.

In a graphic and sprawling report, independent investigators hired by Ohio State University found that 177 students, all men, were victims of the sexual abuse perpetrated by Dr. Strauss, a team doctor and physician from the late 1970s to the 1990s who has since committed suicide.

The university began investigating after a former wrestler, Mike DiSabato, came forward and accused Dr. Strauss of abuse and named Mr. Jordan, who served as an assistant coach on the Ohio State wrestling team in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as a witness who turned a blind eye to the misconduct.

Those accusations ensnared Mr. Jordan, Republican of Ohio, last July. He mounted an aggressive defense, maintaining that not only was he unaware of the abuse, but also that his accusers were politically motivated. The conservative public relations firm Shirley & Banister Public Affairs circulated statements of support to reporters from wrestlers defending Mr. Jordan and claiming that the accusers were seeing dollar signs.

But the report released on Friday, the culmination of a yearlong investigation in which more than 500 people were interviewed, found that 22 coaches confirmed they were aware of rumors and/or complaints about Strauss. Mr. Jordan was interviewed by investigators in Ohio in July, a spokesman confirmed last summer.

I thought that the lawyer who did that handled it the proper way, and we told him the same thing weve told everyone in a public way, Mr. Jordan said on The Bob Frantz Authority radio show.

But many of Dr. Strausss victims painted a picture of abuse widely known and unaddressed.

From my experience, it was so publicly acknowledged within that community that I felt like it was open, public, acceptable behavior, Mike Glane, who wrestled at the university from 1993 to 1998 and was interviewed by investigators, said Friday in an interview. I didnt even think about reporting it.

Mr. Yetts said that Mr. Jordan not only knew of allegations of sexual misconduct when he was an assistant wrestling coach at the university, but he personally confronted the team doctor accused of sexually abusing athletes.

Mr. Yetts has spoken of episodes with Dr. Strauss before, including his charge that Mr. Jordan had confronted the doctor. But in an interview, the former wrestler went into far more detail on at least three specific events in which Mr. Jordan was told of the misconduct. The episodes, as described by Mr. Yetts, challenge both the narrative that Mr. Jordan turned a blind eye to abuse, and the congressmans own statements that he knew nothing about it.

Mr. Jordan did, in fact, try to deal with the doctor, according to Mr. Yetts, in November 1992, after he was first examined by Dr. Strauss after transferring from Purdue University. Mr. Yetts had received physicals from doctors at Purdue, so he said he was alarmed after Dr. Strauss groped and painstakingly examined his genitals.

Mr. Yetts said he angrily burst into the locker room and went directly to Mr. Jordan and the head coach, Russ Hellickson.

I came out and was yelling at Jim and Russ, I dont know what you do at Ohio State, but if this is the way its done, Im transferring out, he said. I said, This dude is two centimeters from my penis.

After calming him down, the two coaches then accompanied him back into the doctors office.

They said: Doc, what just happened? This guy is complaining, Mr. Yetts said of his coaches. He said, Im just being thorough.

When Mr. Yetts became upset and began yelling, he said, Mr. Hellickson asked him to step out. The head coach and Mr. Jordan stayed in the doctors office, and when they emerged, Mr. Hellickson told Mr. Yetts that he had confronted the doctor and told him hes making the guys uncomfortable. He said he had taken care of the situation, Mr. Yetts said.

But the next year, when Mr. Yetts saw Dr. Strauss after he sustained a thumb injury and the doctor tried to pull down his wrestling shorts, he concluded that nothing had changed.

I came out screaming, saying, Why am I getting a physical for my thumb injury? Mr. Yetts said.

A number of wrestlers were standing in the locker room at the time, and Mr. Jordan was standing in the doorway, Mr. Yetts said.

He just kind of blew it off, he was like, Are you serious? Mr. Yetts said. He said, I would kill him if he tried to do that to me, and walked away.

That episode was first corroborated to NBC News, then to The New York Times by Shawn Dailey, who wrestled on the team with Mr. Yetts. A third wrestler on the team who was in the locker room during the thumb episode confirmed that Mr. Jordan dismissed Mr. Yettss comments.

Dr. Strauss was also known to linger in the showers, standing with his back to the wall so he could have a full view to ogle the athletes. Mr. Yetts said that Mr. Hellickson and Mr. Jordan would confront him from time to time in the showers as well.

When Russ or Jordan said, Doc, get out of the showers, its the only time hed actually get out, Mr. Yetts said.

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