Former Ohio State athletes file suit against school in Strauss case

Thirty-seven former Ohio State athletes have filed a lawsuit against the university involving Dr. Richard Strauss, the school's team doctor from 1978 to 1998.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Columbus, "OSU had actual notice of and was deliberately indifferent to the fact that Richard Strauss, M.D., an OSU employee, tenured faculty member, and the Associate Director of OSU's sports medicine program, sexually assaulted and abused hundreds of male OSU student-athletes and other male OSU undergraduates for over nineteen years. Moreover, OSU officials aided, abetted, and actively concealed Strauss' sexual predation on OSU's students."

Nearly all the names inside the new lawsuit are listed as John Does. Former wrestler Michael DiSabato was the only named plaintiff, according to WBNS-TV, the CBS affiliate in Columbus.

A majority of the participants in this latest lawsuit -- approximately two dozen -- were former Ohio State football players. The remaining former student-athletes were Buckeye wrestlers, swimmers, gymnasts and volleyball players.

One wrestler -- identified as John Doe No. 6 -- was a member of the Buckeye wrestling squad from 1978-1981. The former Buckeye wrestler states in the lawsuit that he was sexually assaulted by Strauss more than 20 times. He was told by Strauss to drop his pants whenever he visited the doctor, no matter the injury, including when being treated for eye and finger injuries.

Sexual assault under the guise of a legitimate medical exam was not the only issue relating to Strauss in his time at Ohio State. There have been reports of inappropriate behavior involving Strauss and others at Larkins Hall, the on-campus home to a number of sports programs, including wrestling, when Strauss was team doctor.

John Doe No. 19, an Ohio State wrestler for just one season (1983-1984), is quoted in the lawsuit claiming he was "regularly propositioned in the showers of Larkins Hall by voyeurs and found notes in his locker room asking him to meet up for sex." When he complained to an assistant coach (not named in the lawsuit) about the constant sexual harassment in Larkins Hall, he was told to "grow up" and that he was "not in high school anymore." (The lawsuit states this wrestler gave up the sport after leaving Ohio State.)

The lawsuit also reported on the ongoing efforts by former head wrestling coach Russ Hellickson who "repeatedly complained to OSU administrators about the environment in Larkins Hall because the conditions seriously impacted the psyche and morale of his wrestlers."

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that Strauss watched wrestling practices, was the first one in the shower once practice ended and stayed in the shower area until the last wrestler finished.

For these reasons, coach Hellickson reportedly requested "a separate team shower area." According to the lawsuit, "OSU denied the request."

The lawsuit also claimed that Hellickson, "begged to have the wrestling team moved to another building.

The lawsuit stated, "OSU denied his request."

(Note: The Ohio State wrestling program was eventually relocated to the Steelwood Athletic Training Center a couple miles west of campus in 2002, and, just last week, moved into the brand-new Jennings Family Wrestling Facility at Covelli Center on campus. Larkins Hall was demolished in 2005.)

Two weeks ago, a 232-page investigative report was released, stating that 177 individuals had come forward to say that they had been assaulted by Strauss in the two decades he was on staff at Ohio State.

The entire 46-page lawsuit is available online. Note that it contains graphic descriptions of groping and other sexual abuse which some may find disturbing.


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