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Richard Strauss: College sports doctor sexually abused 177 students over decades, report reveals

Victims of the late physician are suing the college

Andrew Buncombe
Friday 17 May 2019 17:25 BST
University is being sued by survivors of the abuse
University is being sued by survivors of the abuse (AP)

A doctor at an American university famed for its sporting programme, sexually abused at least 177 students over decades, a new report has revealed. Some senior officials were aware it.

An independent investigation by a private law firm into the late physician Richard Strauss, found he abused Ohio State University (OSU) students so frequently and wantonly that many considered it “an open secret”. Some referred to it as a form of hazing, and believed it was considered “a rite of passage”.

The report concludes university personnel at the time had knowledge of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979, but failed to investigate or act in a meaningful way. Indeed, he even appealed to various officials to keep his job.

In 1996, the university removed Strauss from his role as a physician in both the department of athletics and student health services, but his actions were never reported to the police. He was allowed to voluntarily retire in 1998.

“On behalf of the university, we offer our profound regret and sincere apologies to each person who endured Strauss’ abuse,” Michael Drake, president of the university, located in Columbus, Ohio, said in a statement accompanying the release of the report on Friday.

“Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable — as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members.”

Many of the accusers who have spoken publicly said they were groped and touched during physical exams. Some also said they were ogled in locker rooms where athletes joked about Strauss' behaviour. Some referred to him as “Dr Jelly Paws”.

Strauss, pictured in 1978, killed himself in 2005 (AP)

When the investigation was announced last year, former wrestling team captain Dave Mulvin told CBS News he had raised concerns in the late 1970s, when Strauss fondled him during an examination. Mr Mulvin said he went to the student health centre to finish the exam and complained about Strauss to another doctor, who shrugged it off.

Strauss killed himself in 2005 at the age of 67. Last year, when news of the investigation was announced, his family issued a statement saying it would cooperate with the probe, and said “along with the alleged victims, our family seeks the truth”.

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Some of those named in the report as allegedly being aware of the doctor’s actions, are still alive. They have not yet commented on the report.

Some have likened the scandal to that involving former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of Michigan State University. He was last year ordered to spend up to 175 years in jail after pleading guilty to abusing at least 250 girls and young women, some of them celebrated Olympic athletes. The college paid a $500m settlement.

At least two lawsuits have been filed against Ohio State by people who were abused by Strauss.

“The findings of the report have shaken us to our core,” said Michael Gasser, chair of Ohio State’s board of trustees “The university is committed to supporting the safety and well-being of our entire community. The lessons of the past will continue to inform our efforts today and well into the future.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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