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Tampa Bay Lightning suspend Ian Cole pending investigation into sexual abuse allegations

<i>Chris O'Meara/AP</i><br/>Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ian Cole is suspended pending an investigation into sexual abuse allegations.
Chris O'Meara/AP
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ian Cole is suspended pending an investigation into sexual abuse allegations.

By Jacob Lev, CNN

The Tampa Bay Lightning have suspended defenseman Ian Cole while the National Hockey League investigates allegations of sexual abuse, the team announced Sunday.

The NHL confirmed to CNN that the league is looking into the allegations, which were made by an anonymous Twitter account. The Lightning said they will cooperate with the league investigation.

“Our organization takes these allegations very seriously,” the Lightning said in a statement. “While we continue to gather more details, we have decided to suspend Ian Cole, with pay, pending the results of an investigation. No members of the organization, including players, will comment further at this time.”

Cole’s agent issued a statement from Cole to SportsNet saying, “I take the allegations made against me today in an anonymous tweet very seriously. I completely deny these allegations and will fully cooperate” with the investigation. He said he looks forward to clearing his name from the “unfounded” allegations.

CNN has reached out to Cole’s agent for further comment.

In the tweet Friday, a woman claimed that she and Cole had a sexual relationship that started when she was a minor and that Cole had groomed her over a four-year stretch.

The accuser, who is speaking out anonymously under the Twitter handle @emily_smith3333, said that Cole had pressured her into having sex multiple times while she was a minor even after he had made his debut in the league.

She also accused Cole of emotional and sexual abuse.

She alleges that one of Cole’s former NHL teammates told her that Cole bragged to teammates about having sex with her and told them details that only “Ian and I would know.”

“The NHL needs to hold themselves and their players accountable for creating an enabling environment of misogynistic and predatory behavior,” the accuser said in her post.

Cole, 33, has played in the NHL for 13 seasons after making his debut in 2010 with the St. Louis Blues. Cole has also played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche and most recently the Carolina Hurricanes before signing with the Lightning this offseason.

Cole last appeared in the Lightning’s preseason game on Saturday against the Florida Panthers.

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CNN’s Amir Vera contributed to this report.

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