COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — About three dozen former students have joined a federal lawsuit alleging Ohio State University officials knew about and didn’t stop a team doctor accused of conducting unnecessary genital exams on athletes and other young men decades ago.
The amended complaint includes allegations about Richard Strauss from ex-athletes from various sports, including a former hockey player who said he told a trainer about Strauss’ behavior, as well as from Brian Garrett, a student who said he witnessed and experienced sexual misconduct while briefly working for the doctor.
Strauss killed himself in 2005. His relatives have said they were shocked by the allegations raised this year.
The lawsuit, which alleges a violation of the federal Title IX law that bars sex discrimination in education, is one of three against Ohio State over its handling of Strauss. The university has sought to have the case dismissed as time-barred by law but said it is grateful for the people who have come forward and isn’t ignoring their stories about what happened to them.
“When the university of today received reports of sexual misconduct, we immediately and unambiguously took action to get to the truth and live up to one of our core values — that we do not tolerate sexual misconduct,” OSU spokesman Benjamin Johnson said in an email Monday.
One of the new plaintiffs, a former ice hockey player who alleges he was groped, said he and a teammate in the late 1980s reported Strauss’ inappropriate exams to an assistant athletic trainer who expressed concern about the physician.
The player told The Associated Press that he doesn’t know whether the trainer shared the information with higher-ups. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his alleged mistreatment and because he doesn’t want his parents to know about it.
Another plaintiff, Kent Kilgore, alleges that Strauss groped him during a required physical exam after he joined the swim team in the 1980s. Kilgore said he wondered if that was just part of being in a large-university program. He said he mentally buried the experience and regrets not reporting it.
“I wish I’d have just yelled and screamed and thrown this guy across the room when he had grabbed me,” Kilgore, 56, told the AP. “When he was doing that, I wish I’d have stood up and said something, and that could have stopped some of this stuff way back in the day.”
A law firm conducting an outside investigation has heard from at least 145 ex-students sharing firsthand accounts of misconduct by Strauss between 1979 and 1997. Some alumni say they voiced concerns about Strauss as far back as the late 1970s, and the university has at least one documented complaint in 1995.
The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is examining whether the university responded “promptly and equitably” to students’ complaints about Strauss.
The allegations involve male athletes from at least 16 sports, along with Strauss’ work at the student health center and his off-campus clinic . Investigators also are reviewing whether Strauss examined high school students.
Ohio State has encouraged anyone with relevant information to contact the investigators from Seattle-based Perkins Coie, which isn’t proactively reaching out to possible victims because of concern for potentially re-traumatizing them.
Strauss’ employment records indicate that he previously worked at five other universities. Most say they have little record of him, and none has said any concerns were raised about Strauss.
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