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Class-action suits claim OSU ignored doctor's alleged sex abuse

Posted July 17, 2018 10:38 a.m. EDT
Updated July 17, 2018 10:14 p.m. EDT

— Two class-action lawsuits filed this week by former wrestlers claim Ohio State University turned a blind eye to a doctor's alleged sexual abuse of student athletes.

In recent weeks, several former OSU athletes have publicly claimed Dr. Richard Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005, sexually abused them under the guise of a medical examination.

In a suit filed Monday, four John Does -- formerly a part of the wrestling team -- allege they were "sexually assaulted, battered, molested, and/or harassed" by the team doctor in the 1990s, according to the lawsuit.

One plaintiff claims this happened in the late 1980s and 1990s during approximately 50 physical examinations.

In its legal argument for the university's culpability, the suit claims that "an appropriate person" of OSU "within the meaning of Title IX, including but not limited to, former Athletic Director and Assistant University Vice President Andy Geiger and former head wrestling coach Russell Hellickson, had actual and/or constructive notice of sexual assault, battery, molestation, and harassment committed by Dr. Strauss and the other sexual predators, as described herein this complaint."

The lawsuit alleges during the 1994-95 season that two wrestlers met with Geiger and complained about the voyeuristic and lewd conduct of men in the locker room and sauna. The suit says Geiger promised to look into the situation. "But OSU did nothing,"

The suit seeks compensation for damages in an amount to be determined at trial for one count of violating Title IX and one count civil rights due process violations.

Ohio State on Tuesday evening said it remains "actively committed to uncovering what may have happened and what university leaders at the time may have known" about Strauss' alleged actions.

"We are aware of reports that individuals at the university did not respond appropriately during that era. These allegations are troubling and are a critical focus of the current investigation," the university said in a statement.

A second lawsuit filed Tuesday says Strauss posed a "substantial risk of sexual abuse, harassment and molestation to the young male student-patients who sought treatment through OSU."

The anonymous wrestler who filed the suit says he was inappropriately touched and sexually harassed while receiving care from Strauss on multiple occasions, according to the lawsuit. He wrestled for OSU from 1982 to 1984.

OSU said it is reviewing the litigation.

The lawsuit does not name US Rep. Jim Jordan, a former OSU assistant wrestling coach. Some former wrestlers have claimed Jordan knew about the alleged abuse. But Jordan has refuted those claims and said he will cooperate with third-party officials in their investigation for the university.

Neither Hellickson, Geiger, or Jordan are named as defendants.

CNN has reached out to Hellickson for comment and is also reaching out to Geiger.

This isn't the only lawsuit OSU is dealing with. In a separate class-action suit involving OSU, accusers claim diving coach William Bohonyi preyed on at least two female divers.

That lawsuit names Bohonyi, USA Diving and the Ohio State University Diving Club as defendants. The OSU Diving Club, where Bohonyi coached, provides recreational diving lessons and is billed on its website as having the second-highest ranking junior USA Diving team in the nation.

According to that suit, Bohonyi "demanded oral sex" from a female diver who was a student at Indiana University at the time. It claims Bohonyi "forced her to trade sex for diving coaching."

Another diver says she was 16 when Bohonyi began to sexually abuse her in 2014.

"Immediately upon learning of the allegations regarding a dive club member in 2014 against Will Bohonyi, the university placed him on administrative leave and opened an administrative investigation," OSU said in a statement.

The university said it also notified Franklin County Children Services, university police and USA Diving at the time.