An attorney preparing a lawsuit against Ohio State University on behalf of more than 50 former athletes who say they were sexually abused by Dr. Richard Strauss told The Associated Press on Saturday that most of those clients were football players from the school's storied program, including some who went on to play in the NFL.
Dayton attorney Michael Wright said the abuse happened during required physical examinations at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and during treatment for injuries and ailments at Strauss' off-campus clinic and at his home, where he insisted they be seen.
Strauss, a physician while at Ohio State, killed himself in 2005, nearly a decade after he retired from the university with honors.
A 232-page investigative report released Friday found that Strauss had sexually abused at least 177 Ohio State male students, but the report made only one specific reference to football players while listing how many athletes from each team were abused. That list said three football players were interviewed.>> Complete coverage: Ohio State investigation into reports of sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss
The investigation included some 600 interviews of more than 500 people. The abuse spanned nearly all of the men’s sports teams offered at Ohio State, with the most students abused — nearly 50 — involving members of the wrestling program.
Wright said he was not aware that any of his clients were interviewed by investigators from the Seattle-based Perkins Coie law firm, which was hired by Ohio State to handle the investigation. So far, the school has paid $6.2 million for the work, according to Ohio State President Michael V. Drake.
Investigators found that Strauss' abuse occurred from 1979 to 1997 and took place at various locations across campus, including examining rooms, locker rooms, showers and saunas. Strauss contrived, among other things, to get young men to strip naked and he groped them sexually.
The report concluded that scores of Ohio State personnel knew of complaints and concerns about Strauss' conduct as early as 1979, but failed for years to investigate or take meaningful action.
"It was known he was seeing these athletes and there were issues," Wright said.
Wright said he plans to file the lawsuit later this week and, for now, that his clients prefer to remain anonymous.
Some of Strauss' victims remain angry in the aftermath of the report's release about how Ohio State has treated them in the decades after he ogled and groped them during physical examinations and medical treatment.
Former nursing student Brian Garrett said he worked for a short time at an off-campus clinic that Strauss opened in the late 1990s. But Garrett quit after witnessing abuse by Strauss and then experiencing it himself.
The investigation, he said, left him angrier than before.
"We knew that it was systemic and it had been reported," Garrett said Friday. "It's even more widespread than we knew."
Garrett thinks the abuse carried out by Strauss across more than a dozen sports and at numerous locations even surpasses that of Larry Nassar of Michigan State University, who was accused of molesting at least 250 women and girls and is serving what amounts to a life sentence in prison.
"We did not get to put him on trial. The police did not get to investigate. That's why it's worse than the MSU case," Garrett said of Strauss dying by suicide. "He took the easy way out."
No one has publicly defended Strauss, though family members have said they were shocked by the allegations.
The whistleblower credited with prompting the investigation said in a prepared statement that he feels "vindicated," but also said he has mixed feelings about the law firm's findings.
Mike DiSabato, a former Ohio State wrestler, met with school officials in March 2018 to discuss the abuse that he and other athletes suffered at the hands of Strauss, prompting the school to hire Perkins Coie to conduct the investigation.
"Although a weight has been lifted off my back, I am deeply saddened to hear and relive the stories of so many others who suffered similar abuse by Dr. Strauss while Ohio State turned a blind eye," DiSabato's statement said.
He said the Perkins Coie report gives him "courage and strength to keep fighting to ensure Ohio State is held accountable for the damage and trauma they caused me and my family."
After the findings were released Friday, OSU President Drake said there was a "consistent institutional failure" at the university. He apologized and commended victims for their courage.
Separately, the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights is examining whether Ohio State responded promptly and fairly to students' complaints. The department could cut the university's federal funding if it is found to have violated civil rights protections.