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HandWiki. Ohio State University Abuse Scandal. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 19 June 2024).
HandWiki. Ohio State University Abuse Scandal. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 19, 2024.
HandWiki. "Ohio State University Abuse Scandal" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 19, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, November 14). Ohio State University Abuse Scandal. In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "Ohio State University Abuse Scandal." Encyclopedia. Web. 14 November, 2022.
Ohio State University Abuse Scandal

The Ohio State University abuse scandal centered on allegations of sexual abuse that occurred between 1978 and 1998, while Richard Strauss was employed as a physician by the Ohio State University (OSU) in the Athletics Department and in the Student Health Center. An independent investigation into the allegations was announced in April 2018 and conducted by the law firm Perkins Coie. In July 2018, several former wrestlers accused former head coach Russ Hellickson and U.S. representative Jim Jordan, who was an assistant coach at OSU between 1987 and 1994, of knowing about Strauss' alleged abuse but failing to take action to stop it. Jordan has denied that he had any student-athlete report sexual abuse to him. The report, released in May 2019, concluded that Strauss abused at least 177 male student-patients and that OSU was aware of the abuse as early as 1979, but the abuse was not widely known outside of Athletics or Student Health until 1996, when he was suspended from his duties. Strauss continued to abuse OSU students at an off-campus clinic until his retirement from the university in 1998. OSU was faulted in the report for failing to report Strauss's conduct to law enforcement. In May 2020, the university entered into a settlement and agreed to pay $40.9 million to the sexual abuse survivors.

sexual abuse health athletics

1. Background

Richard Strauss (1938–2005) received his medical degree from the University of Chicago in 1964 and interned at the associated hospital system until June 1965. Afterward, he served as a lieutenant in the Medical Corps of the United States Navy from 1966 through 1968 and received an honorable discharge. He then took a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the School of Medicine at the University of Washington until 1970, then worked as an assistant professor of physiology at both the University of Pennsylvania (1970–1972) and the University of Hawaii (1972–74). After Hawaii, Strauss worked as a medical resident at Rutgers University (1974–1975) and as a research fellow at Harvard Medical School (1975–1978).[1]:21–23 Hawaii found no records of any complaints filed against Strauss during his time there.[2]

Strauss was hired as an assistant professor in the OSU College of Medicine in September 1978; shortly afterward, he began volunteering as a team physician at Larkins Hall, OSU's physical education building. He was appointed to a position in the Athletics Department in 1981, and to Student Health in 1994.[1]:2 In Athletics, Strauss served as a team physician for multiple teams, including men's wrestling, gymnastics, fencing, lacrosse, and swimming and diving; he additionally treated students on the hockey, cheerleading, volleyball, soccer, track, golf, baseball, tennis, water polo, and football teams.[1]:34[3][4] Strauss was not formally appointed to a position at Student Health until 1994, but was known to have started performing treatments there as early as 1978.[1]:35–36

 Is this injury bad enough that I'm going to get molested for it?

 — Nick Nutter, former OSU wrestler, quoted in AP News article, July 6, 2018[5]

By 1979, Athletics Department officials knew that Strauss conducted unusually prolonged genital examinations on male athletes, and that athletics staff were not permitted to be present during these examinations. In addition, Strauss was known to shower alongside male students at Larkins Hall, a behavior which was unique to Strauss among team physicians.[1]:2 Between 1979 and 1996, multiple students complained about Strauss's excessive and unnecessary genital examinations, but no action was taken by OSU until January 1996, when he was placed on administrative leave in response to patient complaints.[1]:2–3

Larkins Hall, which served OSU as its physical education facility and natatorium, was perceived as a sexualized environment, and multiple witnesses reported that voyeurism and public sex acts occurred there from the early 1980s to the late 1990s.[1]:163[6] Thirty wrestlers and gymnasts reported voyeurs were routinely present at Larkins Hall in the locker room, shower, and sauna areas, ranging from college age to approximately 60 years old; the "leering" voyeurs would ogle student-athletes that were using the facilities and some would masturbate.[1]:166–167 Sources familiar with then-head coach Russ Hellickson's actions at the time said that the situation was so egregious that Hellickson would occasionally have to physically drag the voyeurs out of the building, and that he also pleaded with the university to move their athletes to a private facility.[7] Strauss was counted among the voyeurs; former OSU students stated that Strauss would shower among athletes multiple times per day or stare into the shower while seated on a stool.[8] In addition, peepholes were found in bathroom stalls and shower walls.[1]:166–167 The building was completed in 1932, named for retired OSU Athletic Director Dick Larkins in 1976, expanded in 1977, and demolished in 2005.[1]:165–166[9][10][11]

After a closed-door hearing on June 5, 1996, Strauss was terminated from his position with the Athletics Department at the end of July 1996, and terminated from Student Health on August 5, 1996. However, Strauss opened a private off-campus clinic and continued to abuse male patients there.[1]:2;4–6 Former employees of the off-campus Men's Clinics of America recalled Strauss placing advertisements in the student newspaper promising student discounts and prompt treatment of genital issues.[12] He also continued as a tenured faculty member in the School of Public Health until his voluntary retirement on March 1, 1998, upon which he gained emeritus status.[1]:2;4–6

Strauss died by suicide in August 2005.[13] According to his suicide note, he had been suffering from "significant escalating medical and pain problems since January 2002".[1]:28–29

In 2019, OSU published its annual campus safety report, which reflected that Strauss committed 1,430 instances of fondling and 47 rapes during his tenure.[14]

2. Investigation

Mike DiSabato was one of the first to report that Strauss had groped him during medical exams.[15] He first requested information about Strauss in January 2018 via a letter to the university; after failing to get a timely response, he approached The Columbus Dispatch with the allegations of abuse in April.[16] DiSabato, who wrestled at Ohio State from 1987 to 1991, added that his first examination with Strauss occurred at the age of 14, when Strauss was conducting research on the body fat of high school wrestlers; the body fat testing included an unnecessary genital exam.[17] At the time, DiSabato did not recognize Strauss's behavior as sexual abuse and that it was considered an "open secret" amongst the wrestling team.[5]

In response, the Ohio State University announced that an investigation had been launched into the long-term sexual abuse in April 2018, asking former students and coaches to come forward with any information that might help the investigation.[18] At the time, the independent investigation was being led by Bricker & Eckler.[19] After the Ohio Attorney General's office appointed Porter Wright Morris & Arthur as the university's legal counsel, Porter Wright commissioned Perkins Coie to lead the independent investigation.[20] OSU President Michael Drake sent an email in May 2018 to more than 100,000 alumni asking them to contact Perkins Coie with any allegations of abuse.[21] Based on the evidence uncovered, Perkins Coie expanded the scope of the investigation to include Strauss's examinations of high school students in June 2018.[22]

The investigation was estimated to have cost $6.2 million by the time the report was released in May 2019.[23]

Strauss's son, Scott Strauss, released a statement in July 2018 expressing that the Strauss family was "shocked and saddened" by the allegations against Richard Strauss.[8]

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Education announced it had opened a separate investigation into the university's response in August 2018.[24][25] Several advocacy groups had sent a letter to OCR earlier in August, alleging that OSU's actions violated Title IX regulations.[26]

The Ohio State Medical Board confirmed that it had received complaints about Strauss and had turned over confidential records to OSU lawyers in December 2018. However, because the records were confidential, the investigators were not allowed to access them.[27] The board had investigated Strauss in 1996 but never disciplined him. Details of the investigation were made public in the report by Perkins Coie; specific identifying details were redacted.[28] In May 2019, after the redacted report was released, the State Medical Board voted to release the records of its 1996 investigation if the alleged victims agreed to waive their confidentiality.[29] Ohio Governor Mike DeWine created a review group via executive order in May 2019. The group's charter was to review the actions that were taken by the State Medical Board in response to the complaints about Strauss.[30]

The investigators conducted interviews with 177 students who provided evidence that Strauss had committed sexual abuse; although not all of the students felt his behavior was abusive, consultation with independent medical doctors confirmed they were not appropriate patient–doctor interactions.[1]:37–38[31] The majority of abuse (143 victims) was categorized as genital fondling associated with medically unnecessary genital or rectal examinations.[1]:41 Of the 177, 153 were student-athletes, of which a plurality (48) were members of the men's wrestling team.[1]:43

3. Civil Lawsuits and Subsequent Developments

Several civil lawsuits have been filed against the Ohio State University in conjunction with the abuse committed by Strauss. Three federal lawsuits had been filed by July 2018; the third lawsuit named several OSU administrators including ex-Athletic Director Andy Geiger as having knowledge of Strauss's abuse.[32] By September 2018, the university had filed motions to dismiss the first three lawsuits based on associated statutes of limitations.[33] Two of the suits were merged in October 2018.[34] In total, more than 20 school officials and staff were named as knowing of complaints about Strauss's abuse but failing to stop him.[35]

In July 2018, former members of the OSU men's wrestling team reported that then-coaches Russ Hellickson (head coach, 1986–2006) and Jim Jordan (assistant coach, 1987–1995) were aware of the abuse by Strauss but failed to put a stop to it.[36] Jordan denied that any student-athlete had reported any abuse to him.[37] Jordan said the timing of the allegations that he knew of the abuse were "interesting ... in light of things that are going on in Washington", referring to Jordan's role as a founder of the Freedom Caucus and his potential candidacy for Speaker of the House.[38] Speaker Paul Ryan defended Jordan as "a man of honesty, a man of integrity" and discouraged an investigation by the House Ethics Committee, as the abuse had occurred before Jordan's election to the House of Representatives.[39] Other ex-wrestlers defended Jordan,[40] who was interviewed by Perkins Coie later in July.[41]

In May 2019, DiSabato filed a Title IX lawsuit against OSU. In one count of the court papers, DiSabato claimed that a second cousin of Jordan's attempted to "intimidate and retaliate" against DiSabato.[42][43] In 2019, DiSabato shared text messages with NBC News that were corroborated by another former wrestler[44] indicating that Jim Jordan, Russ Hellickson, and high school wrestling coach Jeff Jordan (Jim Jordan's younger brother)[45] conspired to engage in witness tampering and intimidation when they called former OSU wrestler Mark Coleman and his parents to pressure him to recant his earlier accusation that Jordan was aware of the abuse. Coleman had shared a room with Jordan while traveling to several wrestling meets.[44]

In November 2019, a retired wrestling referee filed a lawsuit alleging that he had warned Jordan and Hellickson about Strauss's misconduct but they had dismissed his warning.[46][47] Jordan dismissed the referee as "another person making a false statement".[48]

In February 2020, Adam DiSabato – the brother of Mike DiSabato – testified under oath that Jordan called him "crying, groveling...begging me to go against my brother.... That's the kind of cover-up that's going on there",[49][50][51] described Jordan as a "coward" and accused Hellickson of "abandon[ing]" the wrestlers who came forward with allegations about Strauss.[51]

In February 2021, The Hollywood Reporter reported that George Clooney's film production company Smokehouse Pictures would be teaming with Sports Illustrated Studios and 101 Studios to produce a docuseries about the scandal, and that the series would be based on an October 2020 Sports Illustrated article by Jon Wertheim detailing Strauss's abuse.[52]

3.1. 2020 Settlement

Following an independent 2019 investigation which found that Richard Strauss had sexually abused at least 177 students from 1979 to 1997, Ohio State University agreed to pay $40.9 million to settle the lawsuits of 162 men who alleged sexual abuse during the former university team doctor's tenure. Other lawsuits remain outstanding.[53]


  1. Trombino, Caryn; Funk, Markus (May 15, 2019). Report of the Independent Investigation: Sexual Abuse Committed by Dr. Richard Strauss at The Ohio State University (Report). Perkins Coie LLP. Retrieved 25 November 2019. 
  2. "The Latest: So far, U of Hawaii finds no complaint about doc". AP News. June 21, 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  3. Welsh-Huggins, Andrew (May 3, 2018). "More sexual misconduct allegations against ex-Ohio St doctor". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  4. Stacy, Mitch (June 7, 2018). "Ohio State says more victims in alleged doctor misconduct". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  5. Frank, Kantele; Welsh-Huggins, Andrew; Seewer, John (July 6, 2018). "Ex-athletes say Ohio State doc groped, ogled men for years". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  6. Gillispie, Mark; Seewer, John; Stacy, Mitch (July 12, 2018). "Ex-athletes Creepy people, lewd atmosphere at Ohio State University". The Denver Post. The Associated Press. Retrieved 25 November 2019. 
  7. Bade, Rachael; Bresnahan, John (July 6, 2018). "‘A cesspool of deviancy’: New claims of voyeurism test Jordan denials" (in en). 
  8. "Family of Ohio State doctor says it's cooperating in probe". AP News. July 7, 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  9. "Buckeye Stroll: Larkins Hall". Retrieved 25 November 2019. 
  10. "Larkins Hall demolition begins Monday" (Press release). The Ohio State University. July 14, 2005. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  11. "Bleeds Scarlet and Gray: Athletic Director Larkins hired without applying for job". University Libraries, The Ohio State University. April 11, 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  12. Franko, Kantele (September 11, 2018). "Ex-employees: Doc in sex abuse inquiry aimed ads at students". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  13. Rojas, Nicole (July 20, 2018). "Who is Richard Strauss? Ohio State has at least 100 accounts of sexual abuse by former doctor". Newsweek. Retrieved 25 November 2019. 
  14. Smola, Jennifer (October 1, 2019). "Strauss sex abuse reports total nearly 1,500, Ohio State says". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 25 November 2019. 
  15. Narciso, Dean (August 28, 2018). "Whistleblower in Ohio State sexual abuse case convicted on unrelated charge". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 26 November 2019. 
  16. Rabinowitz, Bill (July 18, 2018). "Man who first spoke up about Ohio State doc's sex abuse a complicated figure". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 26 November 2019. 
  17. Almasy, Steve (July 4, 2018). "Ohio State is looking into reports of sexual misconduct by a former doctor. Here's what we know". CNN. Retrieved 26 November 2019. 
  18. Welsh-Huggins, Andrew; Seewer, John (April 5, 2018). "Ohio State investigating sex allgeations against ex-trainer". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  19. "Investigation underway into allegations of sexual misconduct against former wrestling team physician" (Press release). The Ohio State University. April 5, 2018. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  20. "Ohio State shares updates on independent investigation of allegations involving former university physician" (Press release). The Ohio State University. May 3, 2018. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  21. Welsh-Huggins, Andrew (May 22, 2018). "Ohio State president seeks info about alleged misconduct". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  22. Franko, Kantele (June 29, 2018). "Sex abuse inquiry on Ohio State doc now includes high school". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  23. "Independent investigation finds Ohio State doctor Richard Strauss abused students from 1979 to 1998" (Press release). The Ohio State University. May 27, 2019. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  24. "Ohio State shares updates related to Dr. Richard Strauss" (Press release). The Ohio State University. August 16, 2018. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  25. Franko, Kantele (August 16, 2018). "Feds to review Ohio State response to claims of abuse by doc". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  26. "Groups call for feds to look at Ohio State abuse response". AP News. August 1, 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  27. Franko, Kantele (December 18, 2018). "State Medical Board confirms complaint records on OSU doctor". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  28. Franko, Kantele (May 1, 2019). "Ohio State wants info on '96 doc investigation made public". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  29. Franko, Kantele (May 23, 2019). "Bakers of more info on Ohio State doctor abuse win a round". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  30. "Update on the latest in sports: Ohio State-Team Doctor". AP News. May 20, 2019. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  31. Franko, Kantele; Carr Smyth, Julie (May 17, 2019). "'Shocking': Ohio State doc abused 177, officials were aware". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  32. Franko, Kantele (July 27, 2018). "10 more ex-students sue Ohio State over sex abuse by doctor". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  33. "Ohio State responds to lawsuits concerning Strauss misconduct" (Press release). The Ohio State University. September 7, 2018. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  34. "Merged claims leave Ohio State facing 2 suits over team doc". AP News. October 30, 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  35. Franko, Kantele (November 14, 2018). "Accusers: 20-plus Ohio State staff knew concerns over doctor". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  36. Siemaszko, Corky (July 3, 2018). "Powerful GOP Rep. Jim Jordan accused of turning blind eye to sexual abuse as Ohio State wrestling coach". NBC News. Retrieved 25 November 2019. 
  37. Smola, Jennifer (May 3, 2018). "Investigation into former Ohio State wrestling doctor expands to other sports". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 25 November 2019. 
  38. "US Rep. Jordan denies claims he knew of Ohio State sex abuse". AP News. July 4, 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  39. Stacy, Mitch; Welsh-Huggins, Andrew (July 11, 2018). "House speaker defends Ohio congressman as 'man of integrity'". AP News.'man-of-integrity'. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  40. Welsh-Huggins, Andrew (July 10, 2018). "Additional ex-wrestlers at Ohio State defend congressman". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  41. Franko, Kantele (July 18, 2018). "Rep. Jim Jordan interviewed in doctor sex abuse inquiry". AP News. Retrieved 2 December 2019. 
  42. Rabinowitz, Bill. "Man who first spoke up about Ohio State doc's sex abuse a complicated figure" (in en). 
  43. Eaton, Sabrina (2018-07-05). "Rep. Jim Jordan again disputes allegations he knew Ohio State wrestlers were sexually abused (videos)" (in en). 
  44. Siemaszko, Corky (August 9, 2018). "Former OSU wrestler who accused Rep. Jim Jordan of ignoring abuse changes story" (in en). New York City: NBCUniversal. 
  45. Pendleton, Marc (September 13, 2018). "End of an era: Jordan retires as Graham wrestling coach". Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio: Cox Enterprises). 
  46. Dzhanova, Yelena (November 8, 2019). "Wrestling referee warned Rep. Jim Jordan about Ohio State doctor's sex misconduct, new lawsuit says" (in en). 
  47. Young, Ryan (November 8, 2019). "Referee files lawsuit, claims Rep. Jim Jordan ignored abuse allegations against Ohio State doctor" (in en-US). 
  48. Ellerbrock, Josh (November 12, 2019). "Jim Jordan: Referee's claim 'ridiculous'". Lima News. Retrieved 21 November 2019. 
  49. Crowley, James (February 12, 2020). "Former wrestler alleges GOP Rep. Jim Jordan called him "crying, groveling," wanted help covering up OSU abuse scandal" (in en). 
  50. Behrmann, Savannah (February 13, 2020). "Ex-OSU wrestler: Rep. Jordan called 'crying, groveling, begging' to deny sexual abuse claims" (in en-US). 
  51. "Former OSU Wrestler: Jim Jordan 'Called Me Crying' After Strauss Abuse Allegation". February 12, 2020. 
  52. Porter, Rick (February 22, 2021). "George Clooney to Produce Ohio State Abuse Scandal Docuseries" (in en). 
  53. Redden, Elizabeth (20 May 2020). "Ohio State Pays $40.9M in Sexual Abuse Settlement". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 14 June 2020. 
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