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OSU All-American Gymnast Paid the Price2018-11-02T17:09:00+00:00

Mr. Clean

OSU team doctor Richard Strauss was known as ‘Mr. Clean,’ former gymnast says

Patterns are beginning to emerge as more victims come forward to tell their stories of being sexually abused by former Ohio State team doctor Richard Strauss.

An All-American gymnast, “James,” echoes many other anonymous victims when he talks about what Strauss did during physicals, the doctor’s photography hobby and his propensity for showering with male athletes after practice.

“He was all about the men,” James said.

James was on the gymnastics team from 1986-91 and said at least 15 members of his team suffered Strauss’s abuse.

“When I went for my first physical with Strauss, the thing that struck me as really odd was he was sitting on a stool on the other side of the room, and he told me to take my shirt and undershorts off,” James said. “Then all of a sudden he shot across the room on his stool and cupped my testicles – he was down there feeling around for close to a minute – and all I could think of is this is not OK.”

James had dozens of physicals in high school that he described as “pretty clinical and professional. Strauss was not professional.”

After that first physical with Strauss, James told his roommate about the incident.

“My roommate, also a gymnast, said the same thing happened to him,” James said. “In fact, it was a topic for all the freshmen gymnasts and our coaches heard us talking about it.”

James thinks Strauss may have targeted some team members, saying the doctor would “sometimes call an athlete back for a second physical.”

By the time sophomore year rolled around, James and his teammates were “anxious” about the situation, knowing they’d have to once again strip for Strauss.

“It didn’t matter if you hurt your finger, Strauss would make you drop your shorts,” he said. “In my junior year, I asked Strauss if I had to take my pants down. I was able to stand up for myself, but he still required me to remove my shorts to complete the physical.”

And taking a Strauss physical was the “price of admission to gymnastics,” James noted.

OSU Strauss Gymnast VictimIt was a steep price to pay, with most victims remaining silent for years.

“I’m a guy and it’s not something guys want to talk about,” James said. “I think it’s more of a denial thing.”

One reason why James is speaking out now is that he hopes others who are faced with similar situations will be empowered to stand up for themselves.

“I was brought up to trust authority figures, but there are predators out there in positions of authority and they take advantage of that,” he said. “So, I want people to understand you can stand up and say something. If you think something is wrong, question it.”

James has plenty of questions for Ohio State.

For instance, he’d like to know “why you’d assign a doctor a locker in each of the men’s locker rooms? The head coaches had to approve the lockers, so they had to know what was going on.”

He also commented about how Strauss regularly showered with various men’s athletic teams.

“He’d shower at the same time we did, so we’d keep our towels on for a long time. We called him Mr. Clean because he’d find out when a team was showering and go shower with them,” James said. “So, he was taking 4-5 showers a day within an hour or two of each other and with different sports teams.”

James said, too, that Strauss was a “pretty good photographer” who would ask athletes if he could photograph them without their shirts on.

“Then he’d say something like this lighting is terrible, maybe you should oil up,” James said.

One of the biggest questions that remains to be answered is why the University turned a blind eye to Strauss’s abuse for more than 20 years.

“I think they let the abuse go on because it was the path of least resistance,” James said. “Perhaps they thought ‘no one’s complaining, so we’ll let it go.’ But some wrestlers did complain and our coaches were aware, so I want the University to take responsibility for this. They let it go on.”

James concluded by saying, “I’m mad at the University. It affected my collegiate experience and the abuse is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

WRITE TO LEGISLATORS

Help these victims obtain the justice they deserve by filling out the below form and submitting a letter to your legislators.

Write to Legislators

Dear Members of the Ohio General Assembly,

Ohio State University Dr. Richard Strauss is accused of abusing hundreds of Ohio State University athletes, students, and non-students. Allegations that have been brought to light in the wake of the University investigation reveal decades of institutional betrayal by the University, which was notified of these allegations, and failed to investigate or prevent further abuse.

In spite of these systematic failures to protect individuals under the University’s purview, the Ohio General Assembly has the opportunity to ensure that these victims are able to obtain the justice they deserve by changing the statute of limitations.

All of Strauss's victims are prohibited from taking legal action because Ohio's two-year statute of limitations expired long ago.

The Michigan Legislature, when faced with the Larry Nassar abuse scandal, took swift action to provide his victims with a retroactive right to sue regardless of the lapsed statute of limitations period. Pennsylvania’s General Assembly is currently considering similar action for victims of priest abuse. There is no excuse for those in power to fail to act and prolong the suffering of sexual abuse victims.

I ask Ohio legislators to have the courage to provide victims of sexual abuse a retroactive right to sue, which would ensure that OSU's victims are able to obtain justice; that the institutions which enabled sexual abuse are held accountable; and that the Ohio State community can begin the process of healing. By expanding the window for victims of OSU sexual abuse, the Ohio General Assembly has a unique opportunity to ensure that victims of sexual abuse are not deprived of their rights on a legal technicality and encourage lasting change for victims' rights in the state.

Signed,