COLUMBUS — Four former wrestlers say in a lawsuit that Ohio State University officials ignored repeated complaints about a now-dead team doctor and failed to stop his “rampant sexual misconduct” that went on nearly two decades.
The lawsuit describes Richard Strauss, who killed himself after retiring from the university, as “a prolific sexual predator” who might have assaulted 1,500 or more male students at Ohio State.
Athletes who alerted officials about Strauss felt their complaints were futile and that the doctor was above the law in the eyes of the university, according to the federal lawsuit filed Monday.
Among the allegations in the lawsuit is that two wrestlers met with former Athletic Director Andy Geiger during the 1994-1995 season and complained about voyeurism and lewd acts by Strauss and other men at their practice facility.
The lawsuit says the university didn't take action or agree to move the team's practices following that meeting. The team did move into a new building about eight years later.
Geiger told The Associated Press a week ago that he did not remember meeting with the wrestlers or any complaints about Strauss. But he said he did speak with former wrestling coach Russ Hellickson about voyeurism in the showers.
Hellickson also has denied knowing about any abuse by Strauss.
Message seeking comment about the lawsuit were left with Ohio State on Tuesday.
The four wrestlers, whose names were not listed in the lawsuit, say Strauss sexually assaulted or harassed them in the late 1980s or 1990s.
The university in April announced that independent investigators were looking into allegations that Strauss fondled and groped male athletes during physical examinations and medical treatment.
His family has said they were “shocked and saddened” to learn of the allegations.
Strauss joined Ohio State in 1978 and retired as a professor in 1998. He later moved to California, where he killed himself in 2005 at age 67.
He left Ohio State not long after the university held a hearing on complaints against him in 1997, but the school took no legal or disciplinary action, the lawsuit said.
So far, more than 150 former athletes from 14 sports and witnesses have been interviewed, Ohio State has said. Investigators also are looking into Strauss’ work for student health services and at his off-campus medical clinic.
The university has said that it's “focused on uncovering what may have happened during this era, what university leaders at the time may have known, and whether any response at the time was appropriate.”
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, proposes to represent all former Ohio State students or athletes who were examined by Strauss, saying the number of men is in the hundreds, if not thousands.
The wrestlers and their attorneys also want to find whether Ohio State violated federal Title IX law, which bars sex discrimination in education.
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