Richard Strauss, a former wrestling team physician and an assistant professor of medicine, is being investigated by Ohio State on allegations of sexual misconduct. Credit: Lantern file photo

A former Ohio State varsity athlete said he was sexually assaulted twice by Richard Strauss during physical examinations in the fall of 1994 and 1995, and believes he’s not the only one.

The athlete, who wished to remain anonymous, said in the spring of 1997 he was approached by his coach to testify in a hearing against Strauss. He said he didn’t because he was embarrassed, but said he knew of at least three people — including an athlete from the ‘70s — who attended a hearing. At some point after the hearing was supposed to occur, Strauss left the university, the athlete said.

“I thought for sure he was fired,” the athlete said, adding: “Pretty much all the student-athletes knew this guy was a creep.”

Ohio State announced Thursday it was investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by Strauss, who served as an assistant professor of medicine and the physician for the wrestling team from the mid-1970s until the late 1990s. Strauss died in 2005.

“The university is deeply concerned to learn of these allegations involving Dr. Richard Strauss,” the university said in response to the athlete’s allegations. “After the first allegation was brought to our attention, we launched a comprehensive independent investigation, which is underway.  We will share this new information with the external investigators.”

The Lantern confirmed that the athlete was competing on a university team during the time of Strauss’ tenure. The Lantern reached out to the university for comment on the alleged hearing, but it was unable verify at this time whether it took place and told investigators about the athlete’s recollection of the hearing. 

The former athlete who spoke to The Lantern said Strauss also was a team doctor for the fencing and baseball teams. Strauss would conduct physicals for the teams, which is when the athlete believes most of Strauss’ predatory behavior took place.

At this time, records on what teams Strauss interacted have not been located.

The first time he was examined by Strauss was in the fall of 1994.

“I’m sitting, and he straddled my thigh, mounted my thigh. Rubbed on my thigh. I was just frozen,” the athlete said.

Strauss then asked the athlete to get naked so Strauss could check for a sports hernia. The athlete said Strauss proceeded to “inspect my penis in detail” for a significant amount of time.

Strauss gave the athlete a physical again the next year. It lasted about 20 minutes, 15 minutes of which involved Strauss closely inspecting his genitalia.

It was concerning at the time, the athlete said, but the next year is when Strauss’ behavior really raised alarms. That’s because another doctor gave the athlete a physical. It was dramatically different. It lasted five minutes.

The athlete recalls thinking at the time, “No hernia test, didn’t get naked. Is that it?”

“Then I was like, ‘Holy moly,’” the athlete said.

“I was always afraid. [Strauss] was the leading doctor on steroid use in the world, and I was always like, he could always say that medically there’s some reason that he needs to spend 15 minutes on my penis,” the athlete said. “He could have said that, and he’s dead now, but that’s what always scared me. But now I’m like, that’s crazy. Especially when that other doctor came in in five minutes and checked me out.”  

Exactly how long Strauss worked at Ohio State is not yet known. The university said the “best available information is that he served in this role between the mid-1970s and the late 1990s.”

The exact number of physicals Strauss conducted over his more than 20 years at Ohio State is unknown.

Strauss’ behavior in the men’s locker room was particularly unusual and disturbing, the athlete said. He said Strauss was known for walking around the room naked, and that he also would read the newspaper naked nearby the drinking fountain. He would “linger and stare at your crotch,” the athlete said.

The athlete said because of how well-known Strauss’ sexual misconduct was among players, he think it’s likely other people knew or suspected Strauss was sexually assaulting athletes.

“Someone had to make that decision [to let Strauss continue conducting physicals],” the athlete said. “Let’s say he’s a great doctor, fine. He doesn’t have to do the physicals, because it’s like someone was pretty much feeding us to him. I didn’t have a choice to say, ‘I want somebody else to do my physical because I didn’t feel like I had any power in that position.’”

He added: “So if someone even guessed he was doing something, and if the other physical with the other doctor took five or 10 minutes, and I was in there with him for like a half an hour, to me it was like, call 911, I’m having appendicitis or something. It’s not just a routine physical if he’s taking that long with everybody. I’m kind of like now, somebody should have not been putting us in that position. Because you are powerless — well, you’re never powerless — but you have the impression that you are powerless.”  

When the news of Ohio State’s investigation broke Thursday, the athlete said he was “just so glad” the truth about Strauss was beginning to surface.

“I was kind of relieved when this happened because, you know, I’m not crazy,” said the athlete, who also said he considered coming forward about his experiences last month.  

Mike DiSabato, a former Ohio State wrestler in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, told The Dispatch Thursday that he had told university officials in the past about Strauss’ misconduct. DiSabato said Strauss sexually assaulted him, too.

In January, when Larry Nassar went on trial for his rampant sexual abuse within USA Gymnastics and Michigan State, the athlete said it felt “eerily familiar.” More than 200 women have said they were abused by Nassar, who was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.

“Look, I love Ohio State, I don’t want anything to go wrong with Ohio State,” the athlete said, “but in the same sense, it made me mad with what happened at Michigan State and Penn State, for Ohio State to kind of be like — it can happen anywhere.”

Editor’s note: If you have experienced sexual violence and reside in the Columbus, Ohio, area, advocates from the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO) can assist you in reporting, explain the investigation process and accompany you to any meeting. SARNCO’s confidential, 24/7 support hotline is 614-267-7020.

If you live outside central Ohio, you can contact the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, a confidential, 24/7 resource, at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). You also can visit the website to chat live with a representative. Advocates will help you find a resource in your community.