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Co-Workers Face Questions About Richard Strauss, Sex Abuse

Dr. Richard Strauss
Associated Press

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, former colleagues 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.

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 men who say they were abused by Strauss.

The number of accusers has grown since 177 men provided firsthand accounts of sexual abuse for the OSU investigation. Their allegations span 1979 to 1997, nearly Strauss' entire career there, and included his work with athletes and at 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 about Ohio State's failure to stop abuse by Strauss.

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

The Perkins Coie investigation identified at least six "non-cooperative" witnesses, including two Ohio State doctors who dealt with complaints about Strauss in the mid-1990s: former student health director Ted Grace, who now has a similar role at Southern Illinois University, and former head team physician John Lombardo, who also was then and remains the NFL's adviser on performance-enhancing drugs.

Grace cut off Strauss' work with the Student Health Men's Clinic after a student complained about being fondled during an exam in January 1996, about a year after two other male patients complained about Strauss.

The second of the three who complained, Steve Snyder-Hill, alleges Grace mishandled the situation by having him subsequently meet with Strauss to discuss it and lied to him by telling him there had been no previous complaints about Strauss.

Grace didn't respond to messages from the AP but told The Southern Illinoisan newspaper that he didn't intend to mislead Snyder-Hill, "did the best I could" in a difficult situation and is "the only one who did anything at all."

Grace told the paper 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 he told the newspaper he'd welcome an opportunity to testify about what happened.

The investigators also unsuccessfully sought to interview another student health physician from that era, as well as Grace's predecessor.

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

A now-deceased fencing coach had raised concerns at Ohio State about her male athletes' discomfort with Strauss even earlier, in 1994. Lombardo, then the university's lead athletics physician, wrote that he investigated, talked about the issue with Strauss and concluded it was based on years of unfounded rumors, according to Perkins Coie's investigation report .

It's unclear what steps Lombardo took to investigate back then, because no evidence of that was found and he declined a voluntary interview with Perkins Coie. Lombardo didn't respond to a phone message from The Associated Press.

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

An Ohio State physician and retired professor who worked with Strauss in the early 1980s to study wrestlers also declined to be interviewed by Perkins Coie. He didn't respond to email and phone messages from AP.