Six former Ohio State University wrestling coaches are offering support for Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the Republican lawmaker accused of turning a blind eye to a university physician accused of sexual misconduct against athletes during the 1980s and 1990s.
“What has been said about Jim Jordan is absolutely wrong,” reads a joint statement signed by former OSU head coach Russ Hellickson and five assistant coaches.
“We all worked on the wrestling coaching staff during Jim’s tenure at The Ohio State University. None of us saw or heard of abuse of OSU wrestlers. The well-being of student-athletes was all of our concern. If we had heard of any abuse, we would have spoken up,” continues the statement, which was released through a public relations firm.
The allegations against Jordan, a leading conservative Republican, first surfaced when NBC News quoted three former OSU wrestlers who claimed that Jordan ignored allegations that an OSU physician named Richard Strauss molested wrestlers. (RELATED: Jim Jordan Addresses Allegations That He Covered Up Sexual Abuse As Wrestling Coach)
Jordan, a two-time NCAA champion wrestler at the University of Wisconsin, was an assistant coach at OSU from 1986 to 1994. Strauss was a physician for OSU athletic programs during Jordan’s tenure. He committed suicide in 2005.
Mike DiSabato, who wrestled at OSU, has led the campaign against Jordan. He was quoted in the NBC News article as saying that Jordan ignored complaints that Strauss fondled athletes during routine physicals. DiSabato called Jordan a “coward” for denying knowing about Strauss’s behavior.
DiSabato has not provided evidence that Jordan was directly informed of the allegations against Strauss. But he and six other wrestlers have claimed that Jordan had to have known about the allegations because Strauss’ behavior was a frequent topic of conversation in the OSU locker room. (RELATED: Jim Jordan’s Accusers Have Sketchy History, Raising Questions About ‘Authenticity’)
Out of the seven wrestlers who have come forward so far, only one, Dunyasha Yetts, has claimed he directly spoke with Jordan and Hellickson, the former OSU head coach, about Strauss.
“For God’s sake, Strauss’s locker was right next to Jordan’s and Jordan even said he’d kill him if he tried anything with him,” Yetts told NBC.
Jordan has vehemently denied being told about abuse by Strauss while questioning DiSabato and Yetts’s motives.
DiSabato has had business disputes with OSU in the past. In 2008, he sued the school over an athletic apparel merchandising deal. He has also been accused of mishandling funds for a charity set up to honor Ray Mendoza, a former OSU wrestler and Marine officer who was killed in combat in Iraq in 2005.
“I question the intent, the authenticity, the verity, that Mike DiSabato shares in any of his words or actions,” Karen Mendoza, the widow of Ray Mendoza, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Mendoza said that DiSabato “bullied” her when she asked questions about the funds raised for her late husband’s charity. She told TheDCNF that DiSabato used the money to recruit mixed-martial arts fighters to a company he founded.
DiSabato was also arrested in February and charged with telephonic harassment stemming from an incident involving Bret Adams, an attorney who represents former NFL star Chris Spielman.
Yetts served 18 months in prison for defrauding investors out of $1.8 million. In May, he sued a fracking company where he worked for discrimination, claiming that he was overlooked for a job because he is African-American. Yetts also alleged that a male supervisor made unwanted sexual advances against him.
In his interview with Fox News on Friday, Jordan insisted he was never told of abuse at the hands of Strauss, though he did suggest he heard rumblings in the OSU locker room about the physician’s behavior.
“I mean, I never saw, never heard of, never was told about any type of abuse,” Jordan told Fox News’s Bret Baier. “If I had been, I would have dealt with it. Our coaching staff, we would have dealt with it — these were our student athletes. A good coach puts the interests of his student athletes first.”
But Jordan did add that “conversations in a locker room are a lot different than allegations of abuse.”
Rex Holman, a former Big 10 wrestling champion and assistant coach, said in a statement that “I fully believe that Jim did not know of any allegations of sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss at the Ohio State University.”
“Jim is a leader that was very protective of his athletes,” Holman said in the statement.
John Dougherty, who served as a volunteer wrestling coach from 1986 to 1988, said that he “was never approached by any wrestler of the Ohio State Team indicating that they had been sexually abused.”
“In addition, during my time with the team, Russ Helickson and Jim Jordan never mentioned to me that they had been approached by a team member alleging sexual abuse.”
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