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Columbia wrestling program under investigation

Columbia is the nation's oldest intercollegiate wrestling program (Photo/Columbia Spectator)

Columbia University has cancelled the season-opening event for its wrestling team as the New York City school investigates the program after racially and sexually explicit messages allegedly exchanged among some of their wrestlers were made public Thursday by the Columbia Spectator, the school's student newspaper.

Gabe Gilson, sports information director for Columbia Lions wrestling, confirmed to InterMat that the team will not be traveling to Binghamton University this weekend for the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open to launch the Lions' 2016-17 season.

In addition, Gilson shared the following statement issued by the university.

"Columbia University has zero tolerance in its athletics programs for the group messaging and texts sent by several members of the men's varsity wrestling team. They are appalling, at odds with the core values of the University, violate team guidelines, and have no place in our community.

"Upon learning yesterday of these messages, Columbia's Department of Athletics and our office of Student Conduct and Community Standards initiated an investigation. The Department of Athletics has decided that, as the investigation proceeds, Columbia wrestlers will not compete in Binghamton University's open meet this weekend."

The messages, allegedly exchanged among some senior wrestlers on the group text messaging platform GroupMe, date back to 2014, with some having been sent as recently as this week, the news service Patch.com reported.

Bwog -- an independent, student-run campus news site from Blue and White Publishing which produces Columbia's Blue and White magazine -- posted alleged screenshots on Thursday night which it described as being from a Class of 2017 Wrestling Team GroupMe.

"The men in the group message mock women's appearances, make jokes about rape, use homophobic and racist slurs, and engage in other distasteful interactions," is how Bwog described the posts.

The Bwog website featured screenshots which included obscenities and racial epithets, but all names have been blacked out. "Our intention is not to defame any individuals, but to bring up a larger question of how this sort of culture has continued for so long among students who are supposed to represent the University," Bwog said. "It is clear that this sort of 'locker room banter' should not be blindly accepted at an institution of higher learning."

Columbia isn't the only Ivy League school facing challenges with alleged behavior on the part of some student-athletes.

In recent weeks, similar situations emerged at Harvard University involving both the men's soccer and cross country teams. Last month, the Harvard Crimson student newspaper reported that the 2012 men's soccer team produced sexually explicit "scouting reports." Harvard later cancelled the remaining two games of the men's soccer season after learning that the team continued to produce the reports into this fall. Then last week, the Crimson reported that the men's cross country team created similar reports. Harvard is conducting an investigation.

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