In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday, a referee alleges that Ohio State wrestling coaches, including now Republican congressman Jim Jordan, were aware of the sexual misconduct of disgraced former Ohio State doctor Richard Strauss. The suit, the latest of more than a dozen suits filed against the university, says that Strauss masturbated in front of the referee, identified as John Doe 42* in court papers, in a shower following a wrestling match in 1994. The ref said he then alerted the team’s coaches, then–head coach Russ Hellickson and assistant Jim Jordan, about Strauss’ behavior, but they shrugged it off, saying: “Yeah, yeah, we know.”
“It was common knowledge what Strauss was doing so the attitude was it is what it is,” the referree told NBC News. “I wish Jim, and Russ, too, would stand up and do the right thing and admit they knew what Strauss was doing, because everybody knew what he was doing to the wrestlers. What was a shock to me is that Strauss tried to do that to me. He was breaking new ground by going after a ref.”
More than 177 former Ohio State athletes have now come forward to describe abuse at the hands of the former university doctor during his 20-year tenure, but a new wave of lawsuits indicates there are likely far more victims and even more severe instances of misconduct than what has been reported so far by an investigation that issued a report on its findings in May. In its annual crime report, Ohio State said it was now aware of 1,429 instances of fondling and 47 allegations of rape against Strauss. One former wrestler described visiting the doctor for dehydration and being given medication by Strauss before blacking out. “When [the player] came to, he was not sure how long he had been unconscious. He found himself face down on the floor experiencing extreme rectal pain,” the complaint states. “As he came to, he realized the pain was because Dr. Strauss was lying behind him, anally raping him.”
The allegations are stunning in their severity and their breadth—making it nearly impossible that coaches and administrators were totally in the dark about what was going on. The latest lawsuit by the John Doe referee is important in that the ref is the second person to say he directly told Jordan about at least some portion of the abuse. Jordan has denied having any knowledge of Strauss’ years-long pattern of abuse, despite sharing a locker room with the doctor when he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1987 to 1995. In July 2018, eight former wrestlers came forward saying Jordan was aware at the time of the allegations about Strauss’ behavior, but did not do anything to intervene. Strauss killed himself in 2005. Jordan is now a powerful member of Congress. He was considering a run for the House speakership before Republicans lost their majority in 2018 and is a key defender of President Donald Trump.
Correction, Nov. 8, 2019: This post originally misidentified the referee as Jon Doe 2.