FILE – This undated file photo shows a photo of Dr. Richard Strauss, an Ohio State University team doctor employed by the school from 1978 until his 1998 retirement. (Ohio State University)

‘Shocking’: Ohio State doc abused 177 male students, and officials were aware

‘We are so sorry that this happened,’ Ohio State President Michael Drake said at a news conference

A now-dead Ohio State team doctor sexually abused at least 177 male students from the 1970s through the 1990s, and numerous university officials got wind of what was going on over the years but did little or nothing to stop him, according to a report released by the school Friday.

Dr. Richard Strauss groped or ogled young men while treating athletes from at least 16 sports and working at the student health centre and his off-campus clinic, investigators from a law firm hired by the university found.

“We are so sorry that this happened,” Ohio State President Michael Drake said at a news conference, using words like “shocking,” ”horrifying” and “heartbreaking” to describe the findings.

He said there was a “consistent institutional failure” at Ohio State, the nation’s third-largest university, with nearly 65,000 students and a half-million living alumni. The school “fell short of its responsibility to its students, and that’s regrettable and inexcusable.”

At the same time, Drake, who has led the institution since 2014, sought to distance Ohio State from what happened more than two decades ago: “This is not the university of today.”

The report on Strauss, who killed himself at age 67 in 2005 nearly a decade after he was allowed to retire with honours, could cost Ohio State dearly by corroborating lawsuits brought against it by a multitude of victims.

The findings put Strauss in a league with gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of Michigan State University, who was accused of molesting at least 250 women and girls and is serving what amounts to a life sentence. Michigan State ultimately settled with his victims for $500 million.

Similarly, the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse scandal that brought down legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in 2011 has cost the university more than a quarter-billion dollars in settlements, fines, legal costs and other expenses.

The abuse at Ohio State went on from 1979 to 1997 and took place at various locations across campus, including examining rooms, locker rooms, showers and saunas, according to investigators. Strauss, among other things, contrived to get young men to strip naked and groped them sexually.

The report describes one patient who came in with strep throat. Strauss spent five minutes fondling his genitals and never examined another part of the body. Another victim had grown up in a rural area and had never had a proper medical exam; Strauss put a stethoscope on his penis.

READ ALSO: Former football coach Sandusky gets new sentencing

Many told investigators that they thought his behaviour was an “open secret” and that they believed their coaches, trainers and other team doctors knew was going on. The students described the examinations as being “hazed” or going through a “rite of passage.” Athletes joked about Strauss’ behaviour, referring to him with nicknames like “Dr. Jelly Paws.”

The report concluded that scores of Ohio State personnel knew of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979 but failed for years to investigate or take meaningful action.

Ohio State Provost Bruce McPheron said the report does not address whether anyone went to law enforcement at the time or was required to do so under the law back then.

In the wake of the findings, some of Strauss’ victims called on the university to take responsibility for its inaction and the harm inflicted by the doctor.

“Dreams were broken, relationships with loved ones were damaged, and the harm now carries over to our children, as many of us have become so overprotective that it strains the relationship with our kids,” Kent Kilgore said in a statement.

Steve Estey, an attorney for some of the former students who are suing, said: “If OSU refuses to take responsibility we will continue with civil litigation and put this in front of a jury for 12 people to judge their actions.”

No one has publicly defended Strauss, though family members have said they were shocked by the allegations.

At least 50 members of the athletic department staff, including many coaches, corroborated victims’ accounts of Strauss’ abuse, the report said. But students’ allegations never left the department or the health centre until 1996.

At that point, Strauss was investigated and let go as a team doctor and physician at the health centre but was allowed to retain his tenured faculty position.

Investigators said Strauss set up an off-campus clinic within months, receiving assurances from the associate vice-president of health sciences and academic affairs that “there would be no issue” with him engaging in part-time private practice while on the faculty. The abuse continued there.

He continued to plead for his job back as an on-campus doctor, finally going to then-President Gordon Gee with a letter in 1997. His pleas were rejected, at which point Strauss was allowed to retire with emeritus status, a mark of honour. Gee, now president of West Virginia University, said Friday he has no recollection of Strauss.

Former nursing student Brian Garrett said he briefly did administrative work at the off-campus clinic but stopped after witnessing abuse by Strauss and then experiencing it himself.

“I thought all along he hid that from the university,” Garrett said. “Now I find out they actually knew about the off-campus clinic, are you kidding me?” He added: “I’m mad. I thought I was mad before.”

The lawsuits against Ohio State are headed for mediation. They seek unspecified damages. Drake said the investigation alone has cost the school $6.2 million.

Separately, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is examining whether Ohio State responded promptly and fairly to students’ complaints. The department could cut the university’s federal funding if it is found to have violated civil rights protections.

Before Friday’s release, the doctor’s accusers had alleged that Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan was one of the coaches back then who were aware of suspicions about Strauss and didn’t stop him. Jordan, an assistant wrestling coach from 1987 to 1995, was not mentioned by name in the report, and a spokesman said the document showed the congressman did not know about the abuse.

Associated Press writers John Seewer in Toledo and Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Mitch Stacy in Columbus contributed to this report.

Kantele Franko And Julie Carr Smyth, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Free beach camps for kids

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors are offering free summer camps for kids at James Chabot Beach.

Fisher announces decision to run for MNBC regional director’s role

Debra Fisher plans to run for Region 4 director in the Métis Nation of B.C. election this fall

Traditional Indigenous languages evaluated for regional signage project

Economic Development Officer works toward inclusive signage project for the Columbia Valley

Sonshine Children’s Centre slates early-July reopening

Sonshine Children’s Centre plans to re-open for families in need on July 6.

Ktunaxa language nears extinction

UBC grad Martina Escutin has been raising awareness about the critically endangered Ktunaxa language

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Most Read