“Shocking and Painful to Comprehend”—The Horrific Story of Dr. Richard Strauss and OSU

In issuing a statement about the shocking and terrible revelation that a former Ohio State University doctor abused hundreds of athletes over decades, Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake declared, “The findings (of the investigation conducted) are shocking and painful to comprehend.” On Friday, May 17, 2019, Ohio State University announced the results of an independent investigation that was conducted after a recent allegation made by a former Ohio State student-athlete, who alleged that Dr. Richard Strauss, a former Ohio State University doctor, had sexually abused him and other athletes for many years. As of the time of the writing of this article, over 170 men have come forward to make similar allegations against Dr. Strauss, and a few thus far have told the it own personal recollections of Dr. Strauss’ abuse.  And just as disturbing as the actual abuse is the fact that, according to the investigation conducted, students and coaches, over many years, specifically informed university officials of Dr. Strauss’ abuse, but no ameliorative action was ever taken, thereby enabling Dr. Strauss to continue his horrible course of behavior, inflicting abuse and damage upon young men over a course of decades.

Ohio State University opened an investigation into Dr. Strauss, who died in 2015, after a former Ohio State University student-athlete informed the university in 2018 that Dr. Strauss had sexually abused him during medical check-ups. Dr. Strauss, during his almost 30-year career at Ohio State University, worked as a team doctor, and spent an innumerable amount of time with student-athletes for both routine check-ups, and for treatment when athletes were injured. Over the course of decades, numerous student-athletes spoke with one another and with coaches and staff about Dr. Strauss’ troubling and inappropriate behavior that occurred during the course of  his “medical treatment” of them. There are numerous disturbing stories detailing Dr. Strauss’ modus operandi—where essentially, no matter what the patient’s medical complaint was, Dr. Strauss would inevitably touch the patient’s genitals. Former student-athletes, interviewed for the 2018 independent investigation, shared their stories of complaining of a sore throat or an ear problem, at which time Dr. Strauss would fondle their genitals as a part of the “exam” that he conducted.

The 2018 independent investigation also detailed an “investigation” conducted in 1994 by Ohio State’s Director of Sports Medicine into sexual abuse allegations against Dr. Strauss at that time. That 1994 “investigation” ended with a conclusion that the allegations against Dr. Strauss were unfounded, although the evidence is irrefutable that Dr. Strauss, by 1994, had been abusing young men at the school for at least a decade.  Whether due to a lack of investigative expertise, or due to the workings of campus internal politics, the 1994 “investigation”, which was conducted by a person whom was a fellow department colleague of Mr. Strauss himself —was erroneous and hugely damaging.  The incorrect conclusion from that “investigation”—essentially stating that the claims against Dr. Strauss were baseless—allowed Dr. Strauss to continue his abusive behavior for many years afterwards, forcing countless young men to be subjected to the same abuse that was complained of before 1994.

 The 2018 investigation into the sexual abuse allegations against Dr. Strauss—which was independent, unlike the 1994 investigation conducted by Ohio State University’s own employees—was meticulous, with interviewers interviewing more than 500 individuals, including former student-athletes, coaches, and employees. The investigation, among its other conclusions, determined that over 22 coaches at the school knew of Dr. Strauss’ abuse of the student-athletes. Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake, when speaking of the role that the University played in enabling the decades of abuse, stated, “Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable, as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members.”

The Triangle Takeaway

The new standards for misconduct in organizations require that there be a well-known and easy-to-use system for registering claims, concerns, or specific complaints about misconduct. Triangle’s team of experts helps organizations clearly identify and understand what is being alleged. Triangle’s Telli app is ideal for college campuses and other educational institutions, as it provides students with an easy-to-use method for registering concerns. Additionally, best practices for misconduct investigations requires that the investigation be conducted by an independent body that is unaffiliated with the organization. Investigations into serious matters that are conducted by that organization’s own staff make those investigations open to allegations of unfairness, bias, and internal politics. Triangle’s team of expert investigators act as a neutral and independent investigative arm for organizations in need of investigations work.

Kia Roberts