Ohio State University released the findings of an independent investigation on Friday which concluded that former team physician Dr. Richard Strauss abused at least 177 men in 16 sports from 1979 to 1997. Additionally, the investigation found that school officials knew and failed to investigate or stop him in any way.
Accusations against Strauss, who retired from OSU in 1998 and committed suicide in 2005, run the gamut. He’s been accused of groping and fondling, performing unnecessary and prolonged genital and rectal examinations (sometimes without gloves), performing unwanted oral sex, requiring unnecessary nudity during examinations, making inappropriate comments to patients, and in many cases completely abandoning his mandate as a physician.
At least one student accused Strauss of forcing him to endure an excruciating tweezer “procedure” on his genitals in the guise of treating an STD, but was not given any medication or follow-up instructions after he fled the office in pain. Others went to Strauss seeking medical care only to have their issues go untreated. Strauss, who had been given the nickname “Dr. Jelly Paws,” was also known to shower with student athletes and loiter in the locker room, where he would watch them dressing and undressing.
Did the athletics department know?
Student-athletes interviewed by investigators recalled numerous instances of athletics department personnel witnessing Strauss’ behavior firsthand, or being present for conversations about it. Students openly discussed Strauss’ examination methods and loitering in the locker room in the presence of athletics department personnel. Students also raised concerns about Strauss with assistant and associate athletic directors, two head team physicians, and a head team trainer, but nothing was ever done.
Over 50 former athletics department employees who were there during Strauss’ tenure corroborated the student accounts during interviews with Perkins Coie, the law firm in charge of the investigation.
Many of the student-athletes who were interviewed said they didn’t make a formal complaint because they didn’t want to “stir up trouble,” or were afraid of losing their spot on their sports team, which could have scholarship implications. Others looked at being examined by Strauss as a form of “hazing” or a “rite of passage,” something they had no choice but to endure in order to play.
What’s being done
OSU president Michael V. Drake released a statement about the investigation on Friday, commending the survivors for their strength and detailing what safety measures the university has enacted since Strauss retired in 1998. Drake also said that the university is in the process of revoking Strauss’ emeritus status.
There are currently several lawsuits pending about the abuse and those involved, including former OSU wrestling coach and current congressman Jim Jordan, who has been accused of ignoring complaints of Strauss’ sexual abuse. According to the Associated Press, OSU has tried to have those lawsuits dismissed because they’re beyond the statute of limitations, while simultaneously claiming that they’re not trying to ignore anyone’s story of abuse.
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