A former athletic doctor at Ohio State University sexually abused about 180 male students between 1978 and 1998, according to a new report that outlines conduct by Dr. Richard Strauss, who was allowed to retire voluntarily with emeritus status, despite known and credible allegations that were never reported to police.
In a report (PDF) issued last week, not only was the Ohio State doctor put in a position to sexually abuse students for decades, but University personnel likely knew there was a problem as early as 1979.
Strauss, who died in 2005, was removed from his position as a physician in the Department of Athletics and Student Health Services in 1996, and his actions were reported to the State Medical Board of Ohio that same year. However, the university never reported his actions to the police or fully disclose the widespread allegations.
“On behalf of the university, we offer our profound regret and sincere apologies to each person who endured Strauss’ abuse,” Ohio State President Michael V. Drake said in a statement to the university. “Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable – as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members.”
In July 2018, 10 former students filed a sexual abuse lawsuit against Ohio State University, saying the school failed to protect its students from a sexual predator. A class action lawsuit was filed that same month. In November, another 29 men added their names to the initial complaint.
According to allegations in the complaint, Strauss sexually groped young male athletes and other patients during examinations. Plaintiffs say they raised concerns with Ohio State University about Strauss’s behavior, but say the University did nothing.
The University announced an independent investigation into the allegations in April 2018. It reveals a campus where many knew there was a problem, students regularly reported there being a problem, Strauss’ behavior was public and frequently observed and questioned, but no actions were taken.
“Beginning as early as Strauss’ first year at OSU – and persisting throughout his nearly two decades at the school – students and University staff reported and referred complaints about Strauss to various University employees. As early as 1979, personnel in the University’s Sports Medicine program and Athletics Department were aware that Strauss was conducting genital examinations on male athletes that were unusually prolonged, and that Strauss refused to allow athletic training staff to be present for these protracted genital examinations,” the report states. “Additionally, from Strauss’ earliest involvement as a team physician at OSU, it was broadly known within the Athletics Department that Strauss showered alongside the make students at Larkins Hall – a practice unique to Strauss among the other team physicians and a practice that the student-athletes repeatedly complains about to their coaches.”
Strauss would not be investigated until 1994, at which time investigators determined that the allegations were “unfounded rumors.” A serious investigation was not conducted until 1996.
The report and lawsuits come as Ohio State University is involved in another class action lawsuit filed against USA Diving. That lawsuit, also filed in July 2018 on behalf of 50 plaintiffs, claims that Will Bohonyl, a former OSU diving coach and gynecologist, regularly sexually assaulted female athletes.
The claims are also similar to those made by hundreds of women and girls molested by Larry Nassar, a former Michigan State University (MSU) gynecologist who worked with USA Gymnastics.