Over the past 18 months, dozens of Ohio State wrestlers - and a handful of lawsuits - have alleged that Dr. Richard Strauss, the school's physician for its athletics programs, engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior 20-30 years ago while the school reportedly did nothing.
Now, for the first time, there are new allegations that a referee was one of Strauss' victims.
In a new lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday in Ohio, a college wrestling referee said that he had told two Ohio State wrestling coaches at the time -- head coach Russ Hellickson, and assistant coach (now Congressman) Jim Jordan -- about an alleged incident involving Strauss in a campus shower.
The ref -- referred to as John Doe 42 in the latest court documents -- said that he had just officiated a wrestling match at Ohio State's St. John Arena in 1994, and went to take a shower in the arena's locker room. According to the referee, no one else was in the locker room when Strauss entered, telling the official he had to be somewhere and was taking a quick shower, according to the complaint. Even though the shower room's design was open -- with numerous showers available along four sides -- the doctor selected the shower directly next to the referee, the lawsuit stated.
Then, the referee realized part of Strauss' body was touching him, according to the complaint. When the ref looked up, he saw the doctor was staring at him, masturbating.
Quoting from the lawsuit: "John Doe 42 recoiled, said 'What the hell, Doctor?', and left the shower." As he walked away, Strauss made comments about the referee's physique, according to the complaint.
After the incident, the referee described what happened to head wrestling coach Russ Hellickson and "Assistant Coach Jordan" (as named in the lawsuit, presumably referring to Congressman Jim Jordan). Jordan had been an assistant wrestling coach for the Buckeyes from 1987-1995 while earning his Master's in Education at Ohio State, then obtained a law degree at Capital University in Columbus. Prior to coming to Ohio State, Jordan, a native of west-central Ohio, had wrestled collegiately at University of Wisconsin, where he was a two-time NCAA champ in the mid-1980s.
Hellickson and Jordan responded, "Yeah, that's Strauss," according to lawsuit.
"It was common knowledge what Strauss was doing, so the attitude was 'it is what it is,'" the referee said in an interview with 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."
Former Ohio State wrestler Dunyasha Yetts was the first person to publicly say he complained to the Buckeye coaches at the time about Strauss. Yetts said he visited Strauss about a thumb injury and the doctor tried to pull down his pants. He left the room and told coaches Hellickson and Jordan about the incident, according to Sports Illustrated.
"It's good that people are starting to come forward and say the truth, which is that Jordan and the other coaches knew what was going on and they blew it off," Yetts told NBC News.
Many of Strauss's accusers have alleged he groped them during medical exams or stared at them in locker rooms. The former athletes told investigators that they thought Strauss's behavior was an "open secret" that coaches and trainers were aware of.
The latest lawsuit filed Thursday which includes the aforementioned referee includes a number of additional allegations against Strauss, including that he reportedly drugged and raped a student athlete, and sexually assaulted an underage wrestler participating in a wrestling camp at Ohio State.
InterMat first reported on the allegations against Richard Strauss in April 2018. The doctor worked as a sports and student health physician at Ohio State from 1979 to 1998. A law firm hired by Ohio State discovered that Strauss was found to have sexually abused at least 177 student-athletes, including 48 Buckeye wrestlers. Furthermore, according to a more report issued last month by Ohio State, there had been nearly 1,500 cases of sexual abuse tied to the doctor.
After leaving Ohio for California, Dr. Strauss died by suicide in 2005.
The story has attracted attention beyond the state of Ohio and college wrestling, thanks in part to Jim Jordan. The former Ohio State assistant wrestling coach is now a Republican Congressman representing the fourth district of Ohio. A founding member of the Freedom Caucus, Jordan was assigned just this past week by Republican leadership to serve on the House Intelligence Committee to participate in questioning during the open impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump.
Jim Jordan responded to the referee's statements made in a federal lawsuit last Thursday, labeling the comments "ridiculous" in an article in Washington Examiner on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
"I've stood up against the Speaker of the House from own party in my own state. I've stood up against the IRS, stood up against the FBI, stood up against Adam Schiff, fought the Justice Department when the whole Trump-Russia thing" what they had done. … The idea I'm not going to defend our athletes when I think they're being harmed is ridiculous," Jordan said.
The former Ohio State assistant coach went on to say the referee was just "someone making a false statement." His office reiterated that point in a statement to the Washington Examiner, saying, "Congressman Jordan never saw or heard of any kind of sexual abuse, and if he had he would've dealt with it. Multiple investigations have confirmed this simple fact."