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Beyond the headlines: The latest on the Ohio State/Dr. Strauss case


When it comes to a news story, there's often "more to the story" that goes beyond the headlines.

At a hearing of the Civil Justice Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives in mid-February, the testimony of Adam DiSabato -- an Ohio State wrestler from 1988 through 1993 who served as team captain, and was assaulted by Richard Strauss, Ohio State physician -- made headlines in countless news reports across the nation for his comments on Jim Jordan, who, prior to becoming a Republican Congressman from Ohio, was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State while DiSabato was a Buckeye mat star.

Adam DiSabato: Testimony that went beyond the headlines

During the committee hearing at the Ohio State House last month, Adam DiSabato revealed that Jordan had called him repeatedly on Independence Day in 2018, after media outlets had quoted Adam's brother, Michael DiSabato, who said that Strauss' sexual abuse was common knowledge to those within the Buckeye wrestling program, including Jordan.

"Jim Jordan called me crying -- crying, groveling on the Fourth of July, begging me to go against my brother. Begging me. Crying for a half hour -- that's the kind of cover up that's going on there." That statement made by Adam DiSabato became essentially THE headline from his testimony at the Ohio House hearing.

Adam DiSabato
Jordan, an assistant coach for the wrestling team at OSU from 1987 to 1995, has denied knowledge of lewd behavior at university facilities. Adam DiSabato is among the former OSU wrestlers who have filed lawsuits against the school alleging it ignored Strauss' abuse.

Since the allegations against Ohio State doctor Richard Strauss first came to light in April 2018, some of the Buckeye wrestlers who have said they were sexual assault victims have claimed that they told their coaches -- head coach Russ Hellickson, and assistant coach Jim Jordan -- of Strauss' crimes ... or have said that, in essence, there was no way the coaches would NOT have been aware of Strauss' behavior.

"I went to Russ Hellickson. I went to Jim Jordan," Adam DiSabato told the Civil Justice Committee of the Ohio House in February. "I went to them as a captain, begging them to do something. They did nothing. They told me they went to their superiors. Their superiors told them to be happy where they're at and keep their mouths shut. That was Archie Griffin, two-time Heisman winner who a lot of us idolized. He was our AD at the time ..."

(A Columbus native, Griffith played fullback for Ohio State, winning the Heisman Trophy -- the top honor in college football -- in 1974 and 1975 ... before becoming athletic director at his college alma mater.)

When asked by a committee member about Jim Jordan, Adam DiSabato responded, "He's thrown us under the bus as a coach. He's not a leader. I would never abandon my team. He abandoned us. Our head coach abandoned us."

Towards the end of his testimony, Adam DiSabato told the committee, "I was inducted into the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. I earned it. I fought for the University. It's not fighting for me. It's your job to fight for me now. That's all I have to say."

The harrowing written testimony of John Doe 32

Not all the testimony presented to the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee was delivered verbally by those who suffered sexual assault at the hands of Dr. Strauss. One particularly disturbing example was read by Sonia Walker, who had been asked by one of the victims -- identified as John Doe 32 -- to read his wife's victim impact statement on behalf of her husband, in support of Ohio House Bill 249, which seeks to allow victims to sue Ohio State for monetary damages without any statute of limitations.

John Doe 32, who wrestled and also participated in a second sport at Ohio State, had lost his mother while away at college ... and fell into ill health. He decided it was time to visit the training room at Larkins Hall, Ohio State's multi-purpose building that housed intramural sports as well as a number of varsity sports such as wrestling, to get help from Dr. Strauss.

Richard Strauss
"Dr. Strauss made me sit and wait to see him. It seemed like forever. He made me wait until everyone else in the training room was gone. He then approached me and gave me what he said was pain medication, as he walked me from the training room to the locker room. By the time Dr. Strauss began to examine me, I was groggy and felt like I was going to pass out. What happened next, though, was so disturbing that it is impossible to forget.

"Dr. Strauss instructed me to pull my pants down. Then he pulled up a chair and sat with his face directly in my groin. He began to poke around my lower stomach and genitals, and seemed especially focused on my genitals. Then he began to pull on my penis repeatedly. That's when he asked, "Does this hurt?" I kept asking -- louder and more persistent each time -- "What are you doing?" Finally he stopped. And then I passed out.

"I'm not sure how long I was out, but I eventually woke up face down on the ground because of unbearable rectal pain. As I came to, I realized the pain was because Dr. Strauss was lying behind me, raping me. Then in a creepy, high-pitched voice, Dr. Strauss asked, "Are you okay?"

John Doe 32 then went on to say that both he and Strauss were covered in blood.

"The next day I told my head wrestling coach what happened. He accused me of lying and we had a very loud argument about it. He demeaned me, argued with me, and only because of my insistence finally said that he would 'take care of it.' What happened, instead, was that he blacklisted me ..."

Later in the written testimony, the wife of John Doe 32 concluded her presentation where she had shared what had happened to her husband.

"I look into my husband's once strong eyes and I see a lost soul and devastation, my heart is hurting for him. My emotions are racing faster than any time in my life. Our difficulty in our marriage in the last year and a half makes complete sense now. Ever since he shared his story with OSU's investigative group, he has been completely distant and an emotional wreck. My husband bravely reported his horrific experience with Dr. Strauss at the time it happened. Because of OSU's lack of response, he has alone shouldered this burden and shame for years. I will stand by him and help him recover, I'm not sure what the future will bring but, we will get through this."

Dan Ritchie: "I am here to speak for those who continue to suffer in silence"

Dan Ritchie, who had wrestled for Ohio State until withdrawing from the program after being repeatedly sexually assaulted by Strauss, provided written testimony which was presented to the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee in mid-February.

"It took me a long time to step out from the safety of anonymity. But more voices needed to be heard firsthand. I am here to speak for those who continue to suffer in silence, who live with this every day, with the guilt and the shame and the embarrassment that was never supposed to be ours to carry," according to Ritchie.

"This was not supposed to happen to us but now we have to live with this. And tragically now so do people who are closest to us, our wives, our children and our friends.

"When this first came out over a year and a half ago, it was like a weight being lifted ... What I didn't realize the depth and scope of the abuse, and cover-up before I was recruited."

More about the alleged victims of Dr. Strauss

Just about all of the victims who have said they were sexually assaulted by Richard Strauss during his time as a sports and student health physician at Ohio State were male students at the Big Ten school in Columbus. Most of them were athletes in a number of varsity sports. However, some victims were students who had been examined by Strauss in his role as a student health physician.

In addition, a college wrestling referee -- identified as John Doe 42 -- had stated in a lawsuit filed last fall that Strauss had approached him the shower room at St. John Arena at Ohio State after a Buckeye dual meet, standing close enough to touch the referee, and proceeded to start masturbating and make comments about the referee's physique. Furthermore, there have been reports that a ten-year-old male was raped by Strauss while attending a wrestling camp at Ohio State.

Last year, a law firm conducted an in-depth investigation of the allegations against Strauss, interviewing approximately 500 individuals. Their report indicated that at least 177 students had been assaulted, including 48 wrestlers (the greatest number of athletes from a particular sport), as well as male athletes in a number of other varsity sports. More recent numbers indicate that just over 350 students were Strauss' victims. In total, Ohio State has stated there were nearly 1,500 instances of sexual abuse tied to the doctor.

After Strauss retired from Ohio State in 1998, he moved to California. He died by suicide in 2005.

What about Jim Jordan? What does he have to say about the Strauss situation?

Adam DiSabato's testimony before an Ohio House committee which alleged that Jordan had been aware of the situation but did nothing about it, generated headlines across the nation. However, Jordan has steadfastly denied having any knowledge of Strauss' alleged behavior during the time Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. (Jordan was on the coaching staff while he was earning a Master's in education at Ohio State, then a law degree from Capital University in Columbus.)

Prior to joining the Buckeye wrestling coaching staff, Jim Jordan had been a successful wrestler -- as a four-time Ohio state champ for the nationally ranked Graham High in St. Paris, and as a two-time NCAA champ at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jordan entered politics in 2001, first serving in the Ohio House as a Republican. He was then elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006, and has represented the 4th Congressional District of Ohio to this day.

Jordan and his office have steadfastly denied that the Congressman had any knowledge of any abuse of Ohio State students at the hands of Strauss.

For example, in responding to Adam DiSabato's testimony to the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee last month, Ian Fury, a Jordan spokesman, issued a statement which called DiSabato's testimony "another lie."

"Congressman Jordan never saw or heard of any abuse, and if he had he would have dealt with it," Fury said.

Jordan's office has issued similar statements in response to others who have claimed that the Congressman had knowledge of the abuse.

What's more, there is a website -- StandWithJimJordan.com -- which includes testimonials from a number of individuals, including wrestlers and coaches, some with ties to Ohio State ... all supporting the Congressman.

What is being done to seek justice for victims?

Action is being taken on a number of fronts to attempt to find justice for victims of Dr. Strauss.

In addition to the nearly dozen lawsuits filed by Strauss' victims, there is legislation pending in the Ohio House -- House Bill 249 -- which would permit a victim to bring a civil action for damages against a land-grand university (in this case, Ohio State) for injury or loss to person or property which were caused by sexual misconduct committed by a physician who was a university employee ... with no statute of limitations.

A possible solution which may result in an even faster form of justice for Strauss' victims made news this past week. Last Thursday, the Ohio State trustees passed a resolution authorizing the board chairman to approve a settlement with Strauss' victims. The resolution positions the university to expedite a settlement.

Now, an apparently similar situation took place with athletes at University of Michigan ...

In the past couple weeks, reports have emerged from the University of Michigan that Dr. Robert Anderson, a former director of the University Health Service at the Ann Arbor school, allegedly sexually assaulted a number of student-athletes during medical exams. Anderson had served as a top physician for various Wolverine intercollegiate sports teams -- including the wrestling program -- from 1968 until his retirement in 2003. (Anderson died in 2008.)

Nearly a dozen men -- all former Michigan athletes -- have now come forward to say they were victimized by Anderson. At least three of them were once wrestlers: Tad Deluca, Thomas Evashevski, and Andy Hrovat. Deluca has said that, when he wrote a letter to his coach and the Michigan AD in 1975, the coach read the letter aloud to the entire team, then kicked him off the team, and stripped him of his scholarship. (The coach has no memory of any of that happening.) Hrovat, an NCAA All-American wrestler for the Wolverines two decades ago -- and member of the U.S. men's freestyle wrestling team who competed at the 2008 Summer Olympics -- made public his experiences with Anderson nearly two weeks ago.

InterMat will continue to cover developments regarding past sexual abuse of student-athletes at both Ohio State and University of Michigan.

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