Attorneys representing 37 former Ohio State University athletes filed a Title IX lawsuit against the university Wednesday, claiming it failed to prevent physical abuse of the men perpetrated by the associate director of OSU's sports medicine program at the time.
Filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus by attorneys Michael Wright, Robert Gresham and Dennis Mulvihill of the Wright & Schulte firm of Dayton, the lawsuit states, "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."
As reported by ESPN.com, the alleged assaults occurred during preseason physical exams and injury treatments conducted in the OSU athletic department and at the university's Sports Medicine Clinic at Student Health Services. An investigation by the Seattle law firm Perkins Coie determined that the assaults took place in exam rooms, showers, saunas and the off-campus office of Strauss, who worked with OSU athletics from 1979 to 1997 before committing suicide in 2005.
Former wrestler Mike DiSabato alerted OSU officials to the alleged behavior in March 2018. He is the only individual named in the suit. The 36 "John Doe" plaintiffs represented Ohio State's wrestling, football, and men's swimming, volleyball and gymnastics programs. "OSU designated Strauss as a team physician for many sports," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges at least 14 football players reported concerns about Strauss' behavior to Billy Hill, a former football team trainer. Hill worked as an assistant athletic trainer, co-head athletic trainer and head football trainer at OSU from 1971 until his death in 1995.
The lawsuit says Ohio State officials "turned a blind eye" to numerous red flags, including Strauss insisting on examining patients without other staff being present; Strauss performing notoriously long and thorough hernia checks during team physicals; and ignoring frequent complaints by student-athletes about Strauss making them drop their pants regardless of medical needs and him taking multiple showers a day with athletes. Athletes reported having their genitals examined and fondled during treatment for finger or eye injuries, or a common cold. Athletes, some of whom were abused on as many as 50 occasions, developed nicknames for Strauss, including "Dr. Drop Your Drawers," "Mr. Long Fingers" and "Mr. Touchy Feely."
Ohio State president Michael Drake acknowledged that there was "consistent institutional failure" in addressing the allegations against Strauss.
"Today, I filed suit on behalf of victims that were abused at the hands of Dr. Strauss," Wright said. "We agree with OSU President Drake that there was an 'institutional failure' on the part of Ohio State to protect these athletes. It is our hope that OSU takes full responsibility for that failure."