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.
It 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.”