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Massage Therapist Targeted Ohio State Football Players for Sexual Acts

A 41-year-old Ohio massage therapist targeted several Ohio State football players as part of a scheme to initiate sexual encounters, the university revealed Thursday. 

An independent investigation commissioned by the university in March found that no school or athletic department staff knew that the 41-year-old therapist had targeted players for sexual acts. 

In March, the university learned that the State Medical Board of Ohio revoked the therapist's license. The therapist had allegedly “engaged in inappropriate and exploitative behavior" toward members of the team. Ohio State hired the law firm Barnes & Thornburg to conduct an investigation. 

The university "shared the exploitative behavior with the NCAA, and a report has been made to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office." Additionally, Ohio State released the report and associated public records on Thursday. 

According to Barnes & Thornburg, the investigation by the medical board began when a complaint was filed on March 14, 2020. It alleged "that a female licensed massage therapist was offering free therapeutic massages to members of the Ohio State University football team, using those massages as a means to initiate sexual interactions with some of the football student athletes, and then demanding payment."

However, the board's investigation was delayed a year until a medical board investigator shared the complaint with the Ohio State University Police Division on March 4. 

Barnes & Thornburg's investigation found "the massage therapist offered massages to OSU football student athletes via social media under the guise of having a legitimate massage therapy business but with the intent of engaging OSU football student athletes in sexual encounters." They interviewed 117 current and former OSU football players as well as 44 current and former staff and coaching members. 

According to the Barnes & Thornburg report, the massage therapist used two methods to attempt to initiate sexual encounters. 

"First, she would attempt to isolate the football student athlete to get them in a vulnerable position and then attempt to engage in a sexual encounter or in the second, she would send out overtly sexual messages and see if she could engage their interest in a sexual encounter."

The incidents occurred from 2018 through 2021, primarily in off-campus housing or hotels. Barnes & Thornburg found that the incidents did not violate any university policies and was not criminal. Additionally, there are no NCAA implications regarding the massage therapist's interactions with the players. 

The investigation found that 34 football players had knowledge of the massage therapist. Within that group, nine either interacted with her via social media or knew about her from other football players, 20 players only received massages and five football players said during interviews that "they engaged in sexual activities with the massage therapist."

The players' ages ranged from 18 to early 20s when the sexual encounters occurred. However, the current and former football players interviewed said "the sexual activities that occurred were consensual."

Additionally, the players said that "while [the touching] was unwanted, she stopped the inappropriate touching when the football student athletes objected."

"I'm thankful that our student-athletes, coaches and staff were honest, forthright and open during the investigation,” Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said to WBNS. “And I'm really thankful they maintained confidentially, affording the investigation the opportunity to operate without distraction, and to be able to operate with integrity."