An independent massage therapist “who engaged in inappropriate and exploitive behavior” that targeted members of the Ohio State football program has been banned from campus and had her license permanently revoked by the state medical board following an investigation by the university.
The investigation, which was conducted by Columbus-based law firm Barnes & Thornburg, included interviews with 117 current and former football players and 44 current and former coaches and staff members. It found that the massage therapist “carried out a scheme for what appeared to fulfill her personal infatuation with (the players).”
The 41-year-old woman, whose name was redacted from the 15-page report, allegedly began contacting players via social media and offering massages in the fall of 2018. She cultivated relationships that provided her with regular access to off-campus housing where football players resided, at which time she would wander the building looking for other student-athletes to massage.
According to the report, the woman became more aggressive over time, as she began contacting committed recruits on National Signing Day claiming to be the team’s massage therapist. She also offered one-to-two hour full-body massages at the players’ apartments or hotel rooms in Columbus.
During the massages, the woman would attempt to initiate a consensual sexual relationship with the players. She would also either offer the first massage for free, let the player pay for the first one and then provide subsequent messages for free or refuse to accept payment, though she would provide a receipt as if they had paid in an attempt to legitimize her business.
The investigation arose from a complained filed on March 14, 2020, with the state medical board alleging that a licensed female message therapist was offering free therapeutic massages to members of the Ohio State football team but using those massages as a means to initiate sexual encounters and then demanding payment. It was delayed for almost a year until a medical board investigator shared the complained with the university police.
The police department determined that it lacked the jurisdiction to investigate further because the alleged events occurred off campus and because there was no crime that was committed. They notified the university’s office of legal affairs, which then notified the office of compliance and integrity and directed them to conduct an investigation of the matter.
Ohio State then secured the services of Barnes & Thornburg to conduct an independent investigation, which concentrated on whether the players contacted by the massage therapist were victims of a crime or any other predatory behavior and whether or not university employees had any knowledge of the interactions.
“Our first concern and top priority is for the safety and well-being of our student-athletes. Within days of learning of these allegations, the university quickly launched an independent investigation of the matter,” the university said in a press release. “Barnes & Thornburg found that no university or athletic department staff had knowledge of the massage therapist’s activities. Her actions were part of a scheme to exploit football student-athletes and were in violation of her state license."
The investigation determined that 83 players had no or very limited knowledge of or interaction with the message therapist, while 34 did. Of those who did, 20 received massages, nine knew of her or interacted with her over social media and five engaged in consensual sexual activities.
“In addition, Ohio State does not believe the massage therapist’s actions trigger NCAA rules or form the basis for NCAA violations," the statement continued. "While no self-reporting is required, Ohio State proactively shared the exploitative behavior with the NCAA, and a report has been made to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.”
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said during a teleconference on Thursday afternoon that the university sent the report to the Big Ten and NCAA, with the latter agreeing with the report that the players did not receive any improper benefits. None of the players involved have faced or will face any disciplinary actions, either.
“I’m thankful that our student-athletes, coaches and staff were honest, forthright and open during the investigation,” Smith said. “I’m really thankful they maintained confidentiality, affording the investigation the opportunity to operate without distraction and operate with integrity.”
As for the massage therapist, she was hand-delivered two letters on Thursday – one from Smith and the other from Ohio State director of public safety Monica Moll – that made her aware of the investigation and bans her from campus, purchasing season tickets or receiving complementary tickets to athletic events and donating to the university.
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