A former Ohio State wrestler has accused U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a onetime wrestling coach at the school, of having witnessed an athletic doctor sexually abusing athletes in the showers at the university between the '70s and '90s, which the Ohio Republican denies, CNN reports.
Former wrestler Michael DiSabato told CNN that the late Dr. Richard Strauss’s sexual predations were common knowledge among athletes and that Jordan was aware of the rampant abuse.
DiSabato was 14 when Strauss visited his high school’s athletic program as part of a research study performed in conjunction with the Ohio High School Athletic Association and a Catholic diocese. As part of the research, Strauss would perform body fat examinations in the beginning and end of the wrestling season, he told CNN.
Strauss also performed “a thorough examination” of his groin and genitals during the examinations, DiSabato said.
He was not the only student athlete to suffer Strauss’s abuse. Because of the way the facilities at Ohio State were set up, athletes were to use the same showers as faculty members, coaches, and the university doctor. This, he said, led to authority figures performing "lewd acts" directed toward the student athletes, all of which he said Jordan knew about.
"These conversations were not individual conversations," DiSabato said. "They were conversations with a group of athletes who were complaining on a regular basis, not only about Strauss but the conditions within the hall that forced us to take showers with not only Strauss but other university faculty members and professors who had access to our shower facility that led to lewd acts, masturbation, excessive soaping of the groin area."
In a separate interview with CNN, Jordan denied that he and other coaches knew about the abuse. DiSabato said that, in a private email, Jordan acknowledged the abuse the athletes suffered but stated that he did not want to get involved.
DiSabato said he sent Jordan a message "urging and begging" him to use his political clout to help bring the issue to light. He said that the university had intimidated and harassed him and other victims for coming forward with their stories of sexual abuse.
"For Jim Jordan to not support us, not just me but the group of athletes that trained for him and competed alongside him for eight years, is not just baffling to me, but our entire team," DiSabato said.
The scandal could hurt Jordan’s chances to be considered for sSpeaker of the House following Paul Ryan's impending exit. Considering his loyalty to Donald Trump, his support of a possible same-sex marriage ban and of "don’t ask, don’t tell," and his having founded the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus, conservatives in Congress thought Jordan to be well-suited for the job of opposing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. However, the scandal may have ended his chances.
DiSabato said he had been friends with Jordan for over 40 years, and that his issues with him are not about Jordan’s behavior at the time of the alleged abuse, but with his current refusal to publicly acknowledge the matter. DiSabato added that Jordan served as an older brother figure — one who found Strauss’s behavior as disturbing and unwarranted as he did.
"I recall one day, Jim Jordan’s locker was right next to Dr. Strauss's. Dr. Strauss had just taken a shower and was dressing to exit the building and go wherever he was going. He saw another male athlete come into the locker room with his shirt off. He was what I call 'one of his favorites,'" DiSabato recalled. "As doctor was walking out, he saw the guy coming in, he actually stopped in his tracks, he turned around, went back to the locker room, undressed, went back in the shower. I recall vividly Jim Jordan looking at me, and us going 'wow!'"