Scrutiny turns to co-workers of accused Ohio State doctor

Kantele Franko
Associated Press

Columbus, Ohio – Former supervisors and colleagues who weren’t interviewed in the investigation about widespread sexual abuse by an Ohio State University team doctor now face questioning under oath and scrutiny from a medical board.

The issue: Who knew about or suspected Richard Strauss’ misconduct during his tenure, and did they respond properly? Strauss died in 2005, so answers must come from decades-old records, the 300-plus accusers and others who knew him.

The State Medical Board of Ohio is reviewing whether any licensed doctors violated a duty to report concerns about Strauss. If so, they could face discipline from the board, though the window for criminal prosecution of that has passed.

This undated file photo shows a photo of Dr. Richard Strauss, an Ohio State University team doctor employed by the school from 1978 until his 1998 retirement.

Meanwhile, a federal judge said men suing the university over Strauss’ misconduct can pursue sworn statements from ex-employees who didn’t cooperate with the investigation conducted for Ohio State by the law firm Perkins Coie.

“These are highly significant witnesses with substantial knowledge about Dr. Strauss and OSU’s response to Dr. Strauss, and we look forward to getting their testimony under oath as we seek justice for OSU survivors,” said Ilann Maazel, an attorney for some of the accusers.

The number of accusers has grown since 177 men provided firsthand accounts of sexual abuse for the OSU investigation. Their allegations span from 1979 to 1997, nearly Strauss’ entire career there, and included his work with athletes, the student health center and his off-campus clinic.

With the lawsuits in mediation toward a potential settlement , the plaintiffs’ lawyers argue information from the “non-cooperative” witnesses could bolster survivors’ claims.

The university, which publicly apologized for its failure to stop Strauss, unsuccessfully argued those depositions aren’t necessary.

The “non-cooperative” witnesses include two doctors who dealt with complaints about Strauss: former student health director Ted Grace, who now has a similar role at Southern Illinois University, and former head team physician John Lombardo, the NFL’s longtime adviser on performance-enhancing drugs.

Grace cut off Strauss’ work with the Student Health Men’s Clinic after a student complained about being fondled in January 1996, a year after two other male patients complained about Strauss. The second of the three, Steve Snyder-Hill, alleges Grace mishandled the situation by having him subsequently meet with Strauss and lied about there being no previous complaints about Strauss.

Grace didn’t respond to messages from The Associated Press but told The Southern Illinoisan he didn’t intend to mislead Snyder-Hill, did his best in a difficult situation and is “the only one who did anything at all.”

Grace said he provided records about Strauss for an investigation by the State Medical Board of Ohio but didn’t think he was required to report the adult patients’ complaints to police.

Grace declined to be interviewed for the Perkins Coie investigation because Ohio State wouldn’t cover any resulting legal fees, but told the newspaper he’d welcome an opportunity to testify.

The investigators also unsuccessfully sought to interview another student health physician from that era, and Grace’s predecessor.

Strauss was never disciplined by the medical board, which, ironically, started investigating Strauss in 1996 after he first complained about Grace. A recent state review found credible evidence against Strauss was ignored in that investigation, but couldn’t determine why.

A now-deceased fencing coach had raised concerns at Ohio State about Strauss even earlier, in 1994. Lombardo wrote that he investigated the issue, talked with Strauss and concluded it was based on years of unfounded rumors, according to Perkins Coie’s investigation.

It’s unclear what steps Lombardo took to investigate, because no evidence of that was found and he declined an interview with Perkins Coie. Lombardo didn’t respond to a phone message from AP.

The fencers’ subsequent physician didn’t respond to investigators’ interview requests and questions from AP.

An Ohio State physician who studied wrestlers with Strauss in the early 1980s also declined to be interviewed by Perkins Coie. He didn’t respond to messages from AP.