COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Sixteen more Ohio State alumni sued the university Wednesday over how school officials dealt with a team doctor who an investigation recently concluded had sexually abused at least 177 young men between 1979 and 1997.
The federal case filed mostly by ex-wrestlers, including an eventual UFC champion who also coached at Ohio State during that era, is the fifth pending lawsuit alleging university officials were aware of concerns about Dr. Richard Strauss but didn’t do enough to stop him. Strauss died in 2005.
Ohio State has argued in the earlier lawsuits that such legal claims are time-barred by law but has said it’s not dismissing the men and their experiences.
The new case also makes a claim of unlawful retaliation, alleging that unspecified people employed by or associated with the school have disparaged or tried to stifle men speaking up about Strauss.
Asked for comment, the university referred to previous statements by President Michael Drake, who has praised the survivors’ courage in coming forward and has offered a public apology to anyone abused by Strauss. Drake has said the school’s “fundamental failure” to prevent the abuse and investigate complaints decades ago is unacceptable.
The lawsuit may be directed into mediation, as the earlier cases have been.
The new plaintiffs include some of the former athletes who allege the physician groped and ogled young men for years in a voyeuristic environment at a campus recreation center, Larkins Hall . Two of them allege Strauss had them come to his home when they needed treatment for genital ailments and groped them there.
The men waited to sue until the law firm investigating for the university released its findings about Strauss, and some feel the report by the firm Perkins Coie bolsters their claims. The investigators concluded that Ohio State personnel were aware of concerns about Strauss early in his two decades there but failed for years to take meaningful action.
Strauss retired with honorary status in 1998 and killed himself five years later at age 67. No one has publicly defended him.
Plaintiff Nick Nutter said he wanted to wait for the Perkins Coie report before taking legal action because he wanted to give his alma mater the opportunity to assess and take responsibility for its mistakes.
Nutter alleges he was groped in Strauss’ candlelit bedroom when the wrestler contracted poison ivy on his genitals and the doctor told him to come over to be evaluated. He said the university’s acknowledgment of what happened to students is an admirable first step, but not enough.
“I don’t think the healing process is finished yet,” Nutter said.
Another ex-wrestler in the new lawsuit, Dunyasha Yetts, said he and other students complained to coaches and others about Strauss in the early 1990s, and he wants to see those former authority figures held accountable for not doing more to intervene about the doctor’s misconduct.
“If you knew and you didn’t do anything, then you’re just as guilty” as Strauss, Yetts said.
An assistant wrestling coach from back then also is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Mark Coleman, who coached the Buckeyes for several years after being part of the team, alleges Strauss sexually assaulted him about 30 times.
A message seeking further comment was left for Coleman through an attorney.
Follow Franko on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kantele10 . See AP’s coverage about the allegations here: https://apnews.com/OhioStateTeamDoctor .