Kent Kilgore, ex-Ohio State swimmer hasn’t had a physical in more than 35 years
Kent Kilgore was excited to be entering Ohio State in 1981 with a partial swimming scholarship, but shortly after arriving on campus he went for a physical with Dr. Richard Strauss, which proved to be a life-changing experience.
“A week prior to my physical a couple guys told me to stay away from ‘that doctor,’ meaning Richard Strauss, so I tried to dodge him,” Kent said. “But when it came time for my physical, the chairs in front of the other doctors’ waiting areas were filled with older swimmers who were laughing and joking, and they said I had to sit in a chair by Strauss’s office. They knew to avoid him.”
Kent was tired and hungry, and remembers thinking “how bad could it be?”
“I remember hearing a real quiet ‘next’ and having to go behind a curtain,” Kent said. “He was about 10 feet away from me and he turned around, cocked his head and just said, ‘Drop ‘em.’ So I did.”
Next, Kent recalls that Strauss “snapped his gloves” and looked him over, up and down.
“That’s when I knew something strange was going on,” he said. “Then Strauss said, ‘shirt up,’ walked in front of me and began massaging my penis with his left hand, then his right hand. He also lifted my penis up.”
By now, Kent was feeling nauseous and knew what was happening wasn’t right. His high school physicals certainly weren’t like this.
“I just thought we were going to cough for a hernia check. But Strauss walked behind me and told me to spread my legs,” Kent said. “He continued to keep a firm grip on my penis as he looked through my legs – I could feel his white jacket brush against me he was so close – he had my penis in his left hand and my testicles in his right, pushing and massaging for 3-4 minutes.”
Strauss also caressed the back of Kent’s legs, but when the doctor digitally penetrated the swimmer he literally jumped and blurted “No.”
“It just came out, I was so stunned,” Kent said.
After that, Kent recalls Strauss saying, “We’re finished,” and calling “next” to another freshman who was awaiting his first encounter with the team doctor.
“When I walked out, the older swimmers weren’t joking around anymore. They all had their heads bowed down. A few said, ‘Sorry about that. Welcome to the team,’ and we moved on,” Kent said. “I never told anybody. Today, I would.”
But as a young man, Kent was afraid to speak up.
“Back then, I was a naïve kid just out of high school and I always did what I was asked to do,” he said. “Now, I politely question authority. It made me tough.”
Kent did not return to Strauss for his sophomore physical because “once was enough.”
In fact, his 1982 swim team physical was his last physical – ever.
I won’t let a male doctor touch me unless it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t trust ’em – it’s why I accompany my son on doctor appointments.
Strauss’s abuse appears to have manifested itself in subconscious behaviors that Kent said he didn’t recognize until the class action lawsuit against Ohio State went public.
“Even today I won’t walk into a locker room unless I know who’s in there and I won’t walk into the bathroom at my swim club unless it’s empty. When I shower the curtain is shut.”
As is the case with many other Strauss victims, Kent witnessed Strauss showering “buck naked” with the team.
“I thought that was really strange, but the other guys said it happened all the time,” he said.
Kent left the Ohio State swim team after two years to focus on academics, and today is a physical education teacher and swim coach in Florida, where he tries to keep his students and swimmers safe.
“I have had team meetings that included parents and we discussed physicals and, in my way, I always influenced the parents to be present, no matter the age of their swimmer or how much trust they felt they had for any doctor or anyone they allow their children to go with,” Kent said. “I tell my swimmers to question everything when parents aren’t around and to never go anywhere with another adult who claims to know their parents.”
Kent joined the class action lawsuit after learning that Ohio State tolerated Strauss’s actions for 20 years.
“I had no idea it would go on for so long,” he said.
How could the University have allowed this? I get so angry just thinking about it and I feel guilty about not standing up. I should have.
Today, Kent has taken a stand. By speaking out, he’s helping to ensure that other victims’ voices are heard.
“Everybody needs to be heard,” he concluded.