A former college wrestling referee says he told U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan more than 20 years ago about a sexually abusive encounter with a former Ohio State team doctor who preyed on male athletes and others at the university from 1979 through 1996.
Jordan (R-Ohio) denied the referee's claim Monday in an interview with the Lima (Ohio) News. Jordan was an assistant coach for the Buckeyes wrestling team in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Dozens of men say they were ogled and abused by Richard Strauss, a former team doctor who died by suicide in 2005. An investigation commissioned by Ohio State found that Strauss had abused 177 men while on Ohio State's campus and that school officials failed to act on a long list of complaints about his actions.
The referee, who was among 43 men who filed a lawsuit against Ohio State last week, is the second person who claims to have told Jordan directly about the abuse. Several other former Ohio State wrestlers who were on campus at the same time as Jordan said in a 2018 interview with Politico that it would have been impossible for him to know nothing about the doctor's behavior.
Jordan has repeatedly denied knowing about any sexual abuse that occurred during his time as an assistant coach. He told the Lima News that the referee was "someone making a false statement."
"The idea I'm not going to defend our athletes when I think they're being harmed is ridiculous," Jordan said.
The referee, who is listed as John Doe 42 in the lawsuit, said Strauss followed him into the shower after he officiated a meet in Columbus in either 1994 or 1995. The referee was in his 40s at the time of the incident. According to the lawsuit, Strauss stood next to the referee in an otherwise empty shower room and masturbated while staring at him. The referee said he quickly exited the shower, and Strauss followed him and complimented his physique.
The referee said he complained to Jordan and then-head coach Russ Hellickson and described Strauss' behavior to them. Their response, according to the lawsuit, was "Yeah, that's Strauss."
Hellickson has previously said he spoke with Strauss about his behavior, but he never discussed it with Jordan. He told CNN last year that Jordan might not have known about the doctor's misconduct.
The lawsuit filed last week is one of more than a dozen similar claims involving nearly 300 plaintiffs, many of whom are former Ohio State athletes from a variety of sports. Jordan was not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit filed last week.