'Shocking': Ohio State doctor abused 177, officials were aware and did nothing
COLUMBUS, Ohio— 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 center 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 honors, 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; Strass put a stethoscope on his penis.
Many told investigators that they thought his behavior 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' behavior, 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.