OSU Athletes Claim Now Deceased Student Doctor Sexually Abused Them
Five former Ohio State University varsity wrestlers have filed a pair of lawsuits against their alma mater, claiming the school’s athletic doctor sexually abused them and others over twenty years and administrators did nothing to stop it. The lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio and specifically alleges the university ignored abusive behavior by the late Dr. Richard Strauss even though coaches and officials were aware of his inappropriate behavior.
“The rampant sexual abuse and culture of sexual abuse was reported to Ohio State administrators and to the head of the athletic department,” the complaint indicated. “But these officials turned a blind eye to the abuse.”
The first lawsuit, filed on behalf of four former wrestlers by four law firms, alleges that athletes involved in fourteen sports were subjected to “excessive and medically unnecessary fondling, touching and groping” during routine medical examinations, which were similar to previous claims made by of several former wrestlers. Documents state one student complained about Strauss to the university’s student health center decades ago in 1978 and that, in the mid-’90s, two wrestlers reported Strauss to Andy Geiger, then the school’s athletic director, while another reported him to the wrestling coach at the time, Russ Hellickson.
Ohio State held a hearing in 1997, according to the complaint, and Strauss was allegedly allowed to “quietly retire,” but didn’t face any disciplinary action.
The second lawsuit, filed on behalf of a fifth unnamed wrestler in Ohio’s Southern District court by Pennsylvania firm Sauder Schelkopf, makes similar claims that the university “knew or should have known” about the doctor’s alleged abuse of the students, and “negligently failed to supervise Strauss in his position of trust and authority as a team physician, physician, faculty member and authority figure over patients and young students.” The former student wrestler was abused by Strauss on twenty occasions in the ‘80s.
In April of this year, the school publicly announced that it had finally opened an investigation into alleged misconduct by Strauss. Benjamin Johnson, a spokesperson for the university, responded, “We are aware of reports that individuals at the university did not respond appropriately during that era. These allegations are troubling and are a critical focus of the investigation.” He added, “Ohio State remains committed to uncovering what may have happened and what university leaders at the time may have known.”
U.S. Representative Jim Jordan, a former wrestling coach at OSU, who was accused earlier this month by several former student wrestlers of failing to stop the molestation even after being told about it. His name is not mentioned in the current case. Ian Fury, a spokesman for Jordan, disputed the claims.
Strauss retired from the university in 1998 after being asked to leave his position and subsequently took his own life in 2005. The plaintiffs, who say they were “sexually assaulted, battered, molested, and/or harassed” by Strauss, mostly during ‘90s when they were required to visit the doctor to have physicals performed, are seeking punitive damages, the amount of which will be determined by a jury, as well as other damages and court expenses.