The National Hockey League announced Saturday that an investigation into Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ian Cole found no evidence that he sexually abused a woman when she was a minor. The league has subsequently concluded its investigation.
The investigation into the allegations against Cole -- which were made through social media last week -- was conducted by the league's security and legal departments, and it included two separate interviews with Cole as well as NHL club personnel and other individuals with potentially relevant information. However, the league was unable to successfully contact Cole's accuser despite multiple attempts to do so.
"The investigation included a detailed review of on-line and social media, public data, and court records and law enforcement checks. In addition, despite attempts by the League to make contact with the anonymous source of the social media post, those efforts were unsuccessful," read a league statement. "On the basis of the foregoing, the National Hockey League now considers this matter closed."
Cole was suspended by the Lightning last Sunday following the allegations, with the franchise saying in a statement that they were aware of the allegations against Cole and is cooperating with the league in their investigation.
"Our organization takes these allegations very seriously," the Lightning's statement read. "While we continue to gather more details, we have decided to suspend Ian Cole pending the results of an investigation. No members of the organization, including players, will comment further at this time."
A short time later, Cole released a statement in which he "completely" denied the allegations.
"I take the allegations made against me today in an anonymous tweet very seriously," Cole said. "I look forward to clearing my name and demonstrating to the NHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning that these allegations are unfounded."
Cole continued to be paid by the Lightning during the investigation, according to Renaud Lavoie.
Last Friday, an anonymous Twitter account published allegations against Cole. The person wrote that Cole had groomed her over a four-year period "starting when I was a minor in high school," and she also stated that the NHL defenseman was "well aware of my age" when the sexual abuse allegedly transpired.
There was no information written by the accuser on when or where the alleged abuse occurred.
Cole, 33, was set to begin his 13th NHL season after signing a one-year deal with the Lightning in the offseason. Prior to signing with the Lightning, Cole spent the 2021-22 season as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes. He was originally selected with the No. 18 pick in the 2007 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues and played his first five professional seasons with the franchise. He has also spent time with the Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins.