Four former Ohio State wrestlers sued the university on Monday, claiming the school failed to respond to complaints of sexual harassment and abuse for decades.
The federal complaint, a class-action suit filed in a Columbus court, is the first lawsuit to emerge since Ohio State announced its investigation into the former team doctor Richard Strauss in April. The legal team, citing numbers provided by Ohio State, estimates that Strauss “sexually assaulted, abused, battered, molested, and/or harassed 1,500 to 2,500 male students” during his tenure in the Buckeyes athletic department. Additionally, the lawsuit details reports of voyeurism committed by Strauss and other men that appeared in a July 6 Politico report.
The claims against Ohio State failing to properly respond include an account from two wrestlers who say they met with then-athletic director Andy Geiger during the 1994-95 season. The pair told Geiger of “voyeuristic and lewd conduct of the men in the lockers and saunas of Larkins Hall, including that of Dr. Strauss.” This, per the lawsuit and Politico report, consisted of men who would enter Larkins Hall and masturbate while watching the wrestlers use the sauna or showers.
The two wrestlers reportedly offered Geiger a set of plans to alter the locker room to keep non-students out of the area. The lawsuit says Geiger promised to investigate the situation but then did nothing to change the access to Larkins Hall. Geiger told the Associated Press last week he does not remember fielding any complaints about Strauss from the wrestlers, but that he did talk to former wrestling coach Russ Hellickson about behavior in the team showers.
The lawsuit also details the specific actions of Strauss, with accounts of Strauss changing his personal locker to be next to those of wrestlers he was most attracted to and repeat showering to view the athletes naked.
In one instance, Dr. Strauss had just finished showering, had dressed, and was leaving the locker room. As Dr. Strauss was exiting the locker room, one of his favorite wrestlers entered and prepared to shower. Dr. Strauss immediately undid his tie, returned to his locker, undressed, and joined the athlete in the shower, his second shower in a matter of minutes
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Behind the doors of his examination room, Strauss often required the wrestlers to strip naked for basic check-ups and penetrated them anally while claiming to be checking for hernias. The lawsuit claims that multiple wrestlers noticed his physicals would last upwards of 20 minutes, with extended amounts of time spent inspecting penises.
The story of Strauss’s abuse initially drew little national attention; that changed the first week of July, when former wrestlers began calling out former assistant wrestling coach and current U.S. Congressman Jim Jordan for lying about being unaware of the situation. Jordan had been claiming that he knew nothing of Strauss’s actions, but multiple wrestlers have since stepped forward to counter those claims, with Mike DiSabato telling NBC News, “he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.” In the two weeks since, Jordan has since been defended by a litany of political ghouls. Ohio State, meanwhile, will continue its investigation into Strauss and those that sheltered him.
The full lawsuit can be found below.