COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State University announced on Thursday that an independent massage therapist who has worked in the Cleveland area had her license permanently revoked by the State Medical Board following an investigation into alleged "inappropriate and exploitative behavior targeting members of the Ohio State football team."
On March 14, a complaint was filed with the State Medical Board alleging a 41-year-old female massage therapist was offering free therapeutic massages to members of the Ohio State football team and using those massages to initiate sexual interactions with the players and demanding payment after.
The university said it became aware of the investigation in March and within days of being informed, the university launched an independent investigation.
Led by law firm Barnes & Thornburg, Ohio State's independent investigation determined no university or athletic department staff knew of the massage therapist's behavior and that her actions were "part of a scheme to exploit football student-athletes."
The independent investigation found that the massage therapist used social media to appear as though she had a legitimate business with the intent of engaging the student-athletes in sexual encounters. The investigation also found that the scheme was carried out between 2018-21 and typically targeted players ranging from 18 years old to in their early 20s.
According to the former and current players interviewed in the investigation, all of the sexual activities that occurred between them and the massage therapist were consensual and in incidents where she was seemingly trying to initiate sexual activity during her massages, she would stop if the player objected to it. When a player would reject her sexual propositions, she would no longer offer massages, the investigation found. A total of 20 players said they received massages from her; five players said they had sexual interactions with her and nine others said they either interacted with her on social media or knew of her through other players.
"The investigation found no evidence that the massage therapist is or was acting on behalf of an agent or any particular person or entity in professional or collegiate sports, much less on behalf of OSU athletics. Rather, the facts indicate that she seemed to be acting for her own sexual gratification and that she acted alone," Barnes & Thornburg said. "She appeared to use whatever approach was most effective with the football student athletes. Often the football student athletes indicated they would try to pay the massage therapist but she would refuse, and then the football student athletes were confused as to how to respond. But this appears to be part of her overall manipulation."
The investigation found that the massage therapist obtained her license in Ohio in 2009 and had listed work at various chiropractic and sports therapy clinics in the Cleveland area, but she told investigators for the past eight to nine months she had been working exclusively as a private massage therapist.
According to the investigation, the massage therapist used a connection with an Ohio State player to gain access to his teammates and the living quarters, sometimes going door to door looking for other football players to massage. Then in 2020, she began reaching out to recruits on National Signing Day, telling them she was the team's massage therapist and would send numerous messages if a player did not respond.
On March 22, the massage therapist surrendered her license following an investigation into the allegations that she engaged in “sexual misconduct with one or more clients.”
After deeming her actions to have violated the code “including making inappropriate sexual comments to and having sexual interactions with massage therapy clients and/or potential clients,” the State Medical Board permanently revoked her license.
Ohio State shared the exploitative behavior of the massage therapist with the NCAA and additionally filed a report with the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office.
The massage therapist has been banned from Ohio State's campus and location where students are lodging or living while also serving her with a cease and desist order to prevent any further contact with students, coaches or staff.
According to the independent investigation, there was no evidence that the massage therapist engaged in any form of extortion or other financial coercion.
You can read the full investigation by clicking here.
News 5 tracked down the woman who confirmed she was the massage therapist in question. She declined to go on camera but did provide statements in a phone conversation.
"First of all, the number that they said is inflated. Secondly, I never initiated anything with the two young men that I did have a relationship with. OK. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of players that I was approached from and turned downright. So whatever Ohio State needs to say to make them look like the victim, that's fine," the massage therapist told News 5.
Here is the full statement from The Ohio State University:
The Ohio State University released the following statement today (May 13).
In March 2021, the university became aware that the State Medical Board of Ohio investigated an independent massage therapist who engaged in inappropriate and exploitative behavior targeting members of the Ohio State football team. The university has confirmed that the Medical Board has taken action, and this individual has had her license permanently revoked.
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. An experienced legal and compliance resource, Barnes & Thornburg, led the independent investigation, and has completed its work. 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. In addition, Ohio State does not believe the massage therapist’s actions trigger NCAA rules or form the basis for NCAA violations. 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.
For transparency, we are making the report and any associated public records available at this time. All student-athletes on the football team, along with coaches and staff, participated in this process. Based on the findings of the investigation, the university, through its departments of Public Safety and Athletics, has banned the massage therapist from campus and locations where students are lodging or living and has served her with a cease and desist order regarding any additional contact with students, coaches or staff.
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