The State Medical Board of Ohio on Thursday took steps toward unlocking the confidentiality shrouding its 1996 investigative report on Dr. Richard Strauss, an Ohio State University physician who allegedly sexually abused 177 students over decades.
The board voted 6-0 to waive its confidentiality rights on the report, clearing the way for Ohio State to line up waivers from other parties and release the full, unredacted report.
Last week, OSU released a 232-page investigative report detailing Strauss’ misconduct and the university’s failure to act. Portions of the report that refer to the State Medical Board investigation are blacked out.
Strauss showered with Ohio State University athletes, soaping himself while ogling them, and he performed lengthy genital examinations, even if a male student was being seen for a head cold or injured finger.
It was an open secret for 17 years.
According to the 232-page investigative report: 22 coaches, 18 student athletic trainers, and five team physicians across multiple sports confirmed they were aware of rumors or complaints about Strauss’ misconduct. At the Student Health Center, the director assigned “chaperones” to keep an eye on Strauss in the exam rooms.
Former tennis team athlete Ron McDaniel said he was abused by Strauss during an exam for bronchitis in the 1980s. McDaniel reported it to his coach and told other athletes. Their response, according to McDaniel: ‘Welcome to the crowd, rookie. That’s how it’s done.’
In January 1996, Strauss fondled and abused “Student C,” who left the exam room shaken and told other patients in the Student Health Center to get out while they could. He insisted on filing a complaint against Strauss.
Later that year Strauss was suspended, investigated and dismissed as a university physician.
Still, his supervisors gave him an excellent job performance review and he kept his tenured faculty post.
Despite the complaints, his dismissal and a referral to the Medical Board, Ohio State University conferred emeritus status on Strauss when he retired in March 1998. The honorific allows retirees to access free parking, purchase athletic tickets, take classes for free and other perks — benefits that investigators said Strauss didn’t appear to exercise.
The investigation, conducted by Perkins Coie law firm at a cost of $6.2 million, was hampered by time, reticence and death. Key figures such as Strauss, Fencing Coach Charlotte Remenyik, College of Medicine and Public Health Dean Bernadine Healy, and Team Physician Bob Murphy are all dead. Other key figures, including athletics physicians, declined to be interviewed.
Investigators documented how Strauss aggressively pushed back against those who raised complaints about his behavior. Strauss hired an attorney, shouted at ‘Student B’ who brought a complaint and “undertook an aggressive effort” to convince Student C to withdraw his complaint. He described Coach Remenyik’s complaints as part of a personal vendetta.
Remenyik, who died in 2011, raised concerns about Strauss with Dr. John Lombardo, who was Medical Director for OSU Sports Medicine and Head Team Physician. Lombardo declined to be interviewed by investigators unless they agreed to meet pre-conditions.
In a Nov. 7, 1994 letter, Lombardo wrote that Remenyik’s concerns were “based on rumors which have been generated for 10 years with no foundation.”
Investigators with Perkins Coie received first-hand, credible accounts of abuse from 177 former OSU students, including 153 athletes: 48 wrestlers, 16 gymnasts, 15 swimmers/divers, 13 soccer players, 10 lacrosse players and more.
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