Monday, July 16, 2018, four anonymous former Ohio State University wrestlers filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against the university for ignoring the sexual misconduct of Dr. Richard Strauss, which continued for almost two decades.
The lawsuit alleges, “Despite being repeatedly informed of Dr. Strauss’s sexual assault, abuse, battery, molestation, and/or harassment, OSU failed to take appropriate action (or, in fact, any action whatsoever) to stop or prevent Dr. Strauss from continuing his rampant sexual misconduct.”
Who Is Dr. Richard Strauss?
Dr. Richard Strauss was employed as both the university’s team doctor and as an associate professor of medicine. Over his 20-year tenure at the university, he assaulted somewhere between 1,500 and 2,500 male Ohio State athletes in 14 sports, the suit claims. Strauss even earned the nickname “Dr. Jelly Paws” for “his notoriously hands-on physical examinations,” the suit also says.
Strauss frequented the saunas, locker rooms and showers of Larkins Hall, a former OSU recreational facility which had been taken over by aggressive voyeurs who worked at and attended the school. The voyeurs would regularly masturbate while watching the athletes. Head coach Russ Hellickson had to physically remove some of these men from the building on multiple occasions.
The lawsuit goes into detail on how the students and Hellickson repeatedly asked the university to either make changes to Larkins Hall or move the wrestling, gymnastics and swimming teams to another facility (even presenting drawings of proposed changes to former Athletic Director Andy Geiger), but no action was taken. In Larkins Hall, Strauss would linger in the shower to see the athletes naked and even moved his locker to be next to a wrestler he was particularly fond of.
Male athletes were required by OSU to undergo medical examinations with Strauss at least once every season. During these examinations, Strauss would order them to undress below the waist, after which he would fondle their genitalia and digitally penetrate their anuses.
Dr. Strauss “treated student-athletes for everything from heartburn to sprained ankles,” and, “Regardless of the ailment,” he would find a way to molest them during examinations, the lawsuit states. When athletes were in need of medical attention, they were forced to choose between the treatment necessary to continue their college careers and sexual abuse.
After 19 years of complaints, the university held a hearing on the allegations against Strauss in 1997, but no disciplinary or legal action was taken. Not long after, in 1998, the physician quietly retired in California. In 2005, he committed suicide at age 67. That same year, Larkins Hall was torn down.
Investigation And Lawsuit
Recently, several former student-athletes have come forward to share their stories of Strauss’s assault. According to the lawsuit, this is not at all new. A student came forward about a medical examination with the doctor as early as 1978, the year he was hired by Ohio State.
In April of 2018, the university announced that private investigators were looking into the alleged misconduct of Dr. Strauss.
The lawsuit accuses OSU of Title IX and civil rights violations for not acting on knowledge of Strauss’ misconduct. The plaintiffs request unspecified damages and for an injunctive order that the school create a program for the protection of future student-athletes.
The four unnamed wrestlers who filed the suit alleged that they were all sexually assaulted by Strauss in the late 1980s or 1990s. One Plaintiff reports that Strauss abused him during approximately 50 examinations, the first taking place when he was just 14 years old.
Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a founding member of the Freedom Caucus who was an assistant coach of the school’s wrestling program from 1987 to 1995, has repeatedly denied claims by several wrestlers that he was aware of Strauss abusing members of his team.
One of the former students who claim Jordan had knowledge of the misconduct is Dunyasha Yetts, who went to Jordan after Strauss fondled him in 1992. Yetts said to the Associated Press, “He’d even make comments, ‘This guy better not touch me'”. According to Yetts, the doctor fondled him at least twice after his conversation with Jordan.
In the wake of the allegations, Jordan has gone to Twitter to attack CNN for vetting sources affirming his awareness of the abuse, using the “fake news” hashtag.