FREMONT, Ohio -- U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan said on Wednesday he never knew of sexual abuse by a now-dead doctor who examined wrestlers Jordan helped coach decades ago at Ohio State University.
Jordan, speaking to reporters at a July Fourth rally in Fremont, repeatedly denied claims by ex-wrestlers Mike DiSabato and Dunyasha Yetts, who say the powerful Republican congressman from Ohio knew back then that Richard Strauss was groping male athletes.
Jordan acknowledged that Strauss was among faculty members and other employees who used the same open shower area as athletes in the building where they practiced, but he said he and other coaches with whom he has spoken weren't aware of any abuse by Strauss.
"We knew of no abuse. Never heard of abuse," Jordan said. "If we had, we'd have reported it."
Male Ohio State athletes from 14 sports have alleged sexual misconduct by Strauss, who was on the faculty and medical staff and published a variety of research.
Strauss died in 2005, and his death was ruled a suicide. Surviving relatives haven't responded to messages left by The Associated Press seeking comment about allegations against him.
The university has urged anyone with relevant information to contact the law firm Perkins Coie, which is conducting an independent investigation. More than 150 former students and witnesses have been interviewed.
Another law firm representing the university in the matter has said investigators tried unsuccessfully to contact Jordan's office by phone and email to seek an interview with him. The congressman said his office has no record of such outreach and he is willing to talk with investigators but had nothing scheduled as of Wednesday.
He called the timing of the wrestlers' allegations about him "interesting."
"If there is any type of abuse of these folks, we want them to get justice, but it's interesting that the timing is what it is in light of things that are going on in Washington," Jordan said.
Jordan, a founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus, is a potential contender for U.S. House speaker. He has taken leading roles in fighting the Affordable Care Act and in pushing back against the government's Russia investigation, most recently interrogating Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in committee.
A spokesman for Speaker Paul Ryan said the university has rightfully initiated an investigation and the speaker will await its findings.