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Strauss: A 40-year history of abuse and investigation

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

Because the story of Richard Strauss and his victims spans over 40 years, The Lantern developed a timeline of events using the independent investigation report released Friday. Included below are the significant events as told by the report as well as links to previous Lantern coverage.

1978: Ohio State hires Richard Strauss as an assistant professor in the College of Medicine. Soon after, he begins volunteering with the Athletics Department as a team physician, specifically with teams based out of Larkins Hall, such as men’s swimming and diving, wrestling, gymnastics, fencing and lacrosse teams.

1979: Some university personnel first hear Strauss complaints.

1980: Strauss serves as associate director of the Sports Medicine program in the Department of Preventive Medicine within Ohio State’s College of Medicine.

Early 1980s: Strauss works on a study at a Catholic high school and reportedly showers with students. It is investigated by Catholic Diocese of Columbus, but no action is taken.

1981: Athletics Department appoints Strauss to a position that includes responsibilities in the Sports Medicine Clinic within Student Health Services.

1982: Dr. David Henderson, the primary physician in the Student Health Center’s Sports Medicine Clinic, drafts a report detailing concerns about the medical care received by Ohio State student-athletes. Director of University Health Services, Dr. Doris Charles, largely edits out criticism before publishing. Henderson’s report included mention of Strauss, citing a lack of accountability: “He answers to no one.” It made no mention of sexual misconduct but noted that male athletes were beginning to seek treatment elsewhere.

September 1982: Henderson sends a letter to Ohio State University President Edward Jennings, stating his initial report was heavily redacted by Charles. It includes copies of the initial report.

Late 1980s: A nurse reports to Charles about Strauss’ abnormal scheduling practices and unusually long visits with patients as well as Strauss’ lack of recordkeeping with certain patients. Charles dismisses concerns.

1990: E. Gordon Gee is part of discussions about replacing Larkins Hall, the athletic facility said to have a “sexualized environment,” according to the Strauss investigation released Friday.

1990-1992: Nurse continues reporting Strauss’ poor scheduling and recordkeeping protocol to new University Health Services Director Dr. Forrest Smith, who also dismisses concerns.

1994: Strauss begins a part-time position in Student Health Services in a specialty men’s clinic.

November 1994: Fencing team complaints reach Dr. John Lombardo, medical director of Ohio State sports and medical program and Senior Associate Athletic Director Paul Krebs. In a letter, Lombardo alludes to decades of rumors about Strauss and recommends a new physician for the fencing team, but no further reprimands.

January 1995: Ted Grace, director of University Health Services, acknowledging two Strauss complaints, mandates that a chaperone oversee exams.

January 1996: After another incident, Grace places Strauss on administrative leave. A Student Affairs investigation begins, spurred by the most recent incident. During the investigation, fencing team allegations and the two prior incidents come to light.

Summer 1996: Following an investigation by attorney Helen Ninos and then-Vice President of Student Affairs David Williams, Strauss is let go by the school via a closed-session disciplinary hearing with no student participation. He retains his status as a tenured faculty member.

1996: Two students say their coach had previously told Athletic Director Andy Geiger of Strauss’ abuse. Geiger and coaches say the discussion was about Larkins Hall, not Strauss specifically. Geiger meets with two students about potential changes to Larkins Hall.

1996: The State Medical Board makes no criminal referral to law enforcement following a Strauss investigation.

September 1996: Weeks after losing his job at the health center, Strauss opens an off-campus men’s clinic that specializes in sexually transmitted diseases and urological issues. He receives assurance from the associate vice president of the university that it would not conflict with his tenured position, although Strauss was under investigation at the time. Strauss advertised the clinic in The Lantern until 1997.

1997: Strauss makes multiple appeals to several university officials to be reinstated. Strauss appeals to Gee to be reinstated, Gee takes no action.

1998: The School of Public Health recommends Strauss for emeritus status following his voluntary retirement. The Dean of the College of Medicine, Dr. Bernadine Healy, says she did not approve and was not aware of the emeritus status recommendation. It is unclear how it got to the Board of Trustees.

2005: Strauss dies by suicide.

April 2018: Ohio State launches an independent investigation in Strauss.

May 2018: The investigation expands beyond wrestling when eight former-student athletes come forward from varsity male student-athletes from football, wrestling, volleyball, swimming, ice hockey, fencing and cheerleading.

July 2018: Five wrestlers accuse Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan of being aware of the abuse when he served as an assistant wrestling coach from 1987 to 1995. Jordan denies the allegations.

July 2018: Former Ohio State wrestler Michael DiSabato, one of Strauss’ first victims at the university, says he hopes to reach a “negotiated settlement” to compensate the victims.

July 2018: Ohio State faces two class-action lawsuits citing violations of invasion of privacy, sexual harassment, negligence, gross negligence and/or wanton and reckless misconduct, negligent supervision, negligent hiring/retention and negligent failure to warn, train or educate.

July 2018: Third lawsuit filed against Ohio State related to abuse by Strauss.

November 2018: Seven former students abused by Strauss give an emotional testimony to the Board of Trustees.

January 2019: The federal court announces an intention to seek mediation for the two pending lawsuits against Ohio State.

February 2019: Ohio State and the victims of abuse struggle to agree on a mediator.

February 2019: Ohio State announces it will cover the costs of professionally certified counseling services for students that attended Ohio State during the Strauss era.

March 2019: Ohio State and the victims of Strauss’ abuse miss another deadline to agree on a mediator. The court appoints a mediator.

May 1, 2019: Ohio State requests otherwise confidential medical board information be released in the Strauss investigative report.

May 16, 2019: A judge denies Ohio State’s request for confidential medical board information to be released in Strauss report.

May 17, 2019: Third-party investigators Perkins Coie release report detailing Strauss’ history of abuse at Ohio State and what was reported to University personnel during Strauss’ tenure. It concludes that the university was aware of Strauss’ actions and failed to take action.

May 17, 2019: Ohio State President Michael Drake releases a statement apologizing for “institution’s fundamental failure” and extending condolences to victims and families. His statement also detailed steps the university has taken and resources for sexual misconduct victims.

May 17, 2019: Gee releases statement to The Lantern stating that he “has no recollection of Dr. Strauss or any reports regarding him.” He also stated that he has always taken any allegations brought to him very seriously, and that, while he knew Jordan, it was only as a congressman from an Ohio State University district.

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