U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, continued to push back against allegations that he knew that Ohio State University team doctor Richard Strauss was a sexual predator and failed to report the abuse when he was an assistant coach in the wrestling program between 1986 and 1994.
Jordan questioned the timing of the allegations, insisted that he would have acted if he knew of any abuse and contacted U.S. Capitol Police to report harassing emails from former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato of Columbus.
On Tuesday, former athletes who wrestled for Jordan at Ohio State lodged the accusations in a report first published by NBC News.
DiSabato said that Jordan gave out a gave out a certificate each year called “King of the Sauna,” to the person who talked the most smack in the sauna. Jordan, he said, hung out in the sauna daily and was there to witness some of the alleged voyeurism and public masturbation that has led the university to investigate Strauss, who died in 2005.
“Voyeurism is sex abuse,” he said. “He saw it, he knew it, and he did nothing.”
Jordan noted that the allegations arose a week after he grilled Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sharply about the investigation into Russia and the 2016 presidential race as well as during a period when Jordan is considering running for speaker.
Jordan has said he has yet to be contacted by Ohio State investigators. Lawyers for the university said Tuesday that they had tried to reach him by email and phone. On Thursday, the OSU lawyers said that it appears that the emails on May 14 and May 24 and a phone call on June 12 did not reach Jordan.
Jordan told CNN that the investigators used an e-mail address that doesn’t exist.
Even as Jordan and DiSabato fight over what Jordan saw, an outside lawyer suggested that Jordan may not have been legally obligated to report the suspected abuse.
Saundra Schuster, co-founder of the Association of Title IX Administrators, said before 2001, there was no requirement that responsible adults report abuse. However, state laws during the time Jordan was a coach would require that he report abuse of anyone under 18.
Ohio State in April announced it was investigating accusations against Strauss, who treated athletes and students as a team doctor in the athletics program and a physician at the student health services center between 1978 and 1996. Investigators have interviewed more than 150 witnesses, self-identified victims and others associated with 14 varsity sports as well as those who may have been treated by Strauss through the student health center.
DiSabato and others claim that Strauss groped students during exams and routinely took long showers and saunas with athletes.
At a 4th of July event in Fremont, Jordan told reporters that Ohio State allowed faculty and staff to shower with student-athletes.
“I did know Dr. Strauss, he was there when we got to Ohio State,” Jordan said Wednesday. “Yeah, I knew the doctor. But there was no truth to the fact that I knew of any abuse … it’s just not accurate to say those things, that we knew about it and didn’t report it, it’s just not true.”
Bobby Douglas, a former wrestling coach at both Arizona State and Iowa State universities, said Strauss’ behavior did not go unnoticed by coaches and wrestlers who were competing against Ohio State.
“For the team doctor to take a sauna with the wrestlers, it’s very unusual,” Douglas said Thursday. “A lot of coaches were talking about it, let’s just put it that way.”
Douglas said of Jordan: “If he says he didn’t see what was going on, I’ll take his word for it, but a lot of people around him and a lot of coaches that came through there saw it. I was one of them. I saw it.”
Meanwhile, some former associates of DiSabato came to Jordan’s defense.
Karen Mendoza, whose husband Ray died in Iraq in 2005, issued a statement through Jordan’s office saying that DiSabato reached her in the aftermath of her husband’s death to help create a memorial fund that would help surviving members of service members killed in action, provide leadership classes at Ohio State and support Ohio wrestlers in pursuit of their Olympic goals.
Mendoza said the partnership worked for awhile – but when she started asking questions about how the money was being spent, DiSabato became defensive. Eventually, “I could not get him to return texts or emails or phone calls.”
She said she filed a cease and desist order against him to stop DiSabato from using her husband’s image, and she filed a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General.
“Jim Jordan has been charged and convicted in the public court with only Mike DiSabato’s word,” she said.
Former Ohio State football player Matt Finkes also filed a police report with the Columbus Police Department accusing DiSabato of harassment. Finkes was part of a group of players that sued Ohio State last year for improper use of images of former athletes in Ohio Stadium. DiSabato was also arrested in February after he was accused of telephone harassment against sports agent Bret Adams.
Finkes said he’s been receiving emails from DiSabato for the last six to eight months making what he called “outlandish” claims about Ohio State.
He said DiSabato “has a very heavy axe to grind” with the university and with the Jordan family. Jeff Jordan, Jim’s brother, has a stake in a wrestling gear company that competes with some of DiSabato’s business. DiSabato said he used a wrestling apparel company that is no longer active. He said he’s now in sports management.
DiSabato, however, said the attacks were just aimed at deflecting from his accusations.
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