More than 100 Ohio State University alumni have given investigators firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct by former athletic doctor Richard Strauss, the school said Friday in an update on the probe.
Strauss has been accused of sexually abusing student athletes involved in 14 sports, as well as patients at the campus health center, between 1979 and 1997, according to the school. Ohio State announced that an independent investigation of his behavior was underway in April. Strauss killed himself in 2005.
Controversy over whether OSU athletic coaches knew about Strauss’s alleged conduct has ensnared Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), an influential conservative lawmaker who served as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1987 to 1995. Jordan has consistently denied that he knew that Strauss was engaging in misconduct toward students.
Jordan interviewed this week with lawyers from Perkins Coie, the firm hired to look into Strauss.
Ohio State said investigators expect to conduct more than 100 additional interviews and “remain in regular communication with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.” They have completed interviews with more than 200 former students and university staff, the school said.
“We are grateful to those who have come forward and remain deeply concerned for anyone who may have been affected by Dr. Strauss’ actions,” Ohio State President Michael V. Drake said in a statement. “We remain steadfastly committed to uncovering the truth.”
A spokesman for Jordan declined earlier in the week to provide details about Jordan’s interview. In a radio interview Wednesday, Jordan said he told the lawyers he knew nothing about Strauss’s alleged abuse.
Whether Jordan knew has become a matter of debate among former Ohio State wrestlers.
One former wrestler has said he told Jordan that Strauss had behaved inappropriately during appointments, while others have said Jordan had to have known because they discussed the allegations openly in the locker room while he was present.
Other former team members have said they believe Jordan’s statements that he knew nothing.
The investigation into Strauss’s behavior has expanded since April as more athletes have come forward with allegations of inappropriate touching and other misconduct.
Enrico Sartori, now a neurologist in Puerto Rico, was a tennis player at Ohio State in the early late 1980s and early 1990s.
Like more than a half-dozen other former OSU athletes interviewed by The Washington Post, he said Strauss’s physical examinations made him feel uncomfortable, but he did not believe at the time that it rose to the level of abuse.
“You knew something was kind of off,” Sartori said. “Being a doctor now, I have a better understanding.”
Strauss made a hernia check part of every exam, Sartori and other former athletes said, sometimes lingering a little too long on male athletes’ genital area.
Jeff Chamberlain, who ran track and cross-country from 1989 to 1993, said that during his sophomore year, Strauss held his testicles for what he estimated was about 20 seconds. He said he began to feel so uncomfortable that he became nauseous.
“As a sophomore in college, I didn’t know what was appropriate in that kind of exam,” Chamberlain said. “I knew it was different than anything I had experienced during previous hernia checks.”
He said teammates joked about Strauss’s exams, and it was seen as a kind of a “hazing” ritual for first-year students. “That’s what we thought 25 years ago,” he said. “Today, I’d have a different opinion of it.”
None of the six former athletes interviewed by The Post reported Strauss to their coaches, and none of them said they had talked to investigators.
Brett Briley was a freshman on the fencing team in 1989. He recalls standing in a line of teammates joking about Strauss during annual physicals at the beginning of the season.
“I specifically remember people joking that you didn’t want Dr. Strauss because of the in-depth hernia checks,” he said.