(Reuters) - Four former Ohio State University varsity wrestlers sued the school on Monday, claiming its athletic doctor sexually abused them and others over 20 years and the school failed to stop it.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio, claimed the university ignored abusive behavior by the late Dr. Richard Strauss and said coaches and higher level officials were aware of his abuse.
“The rampant sexual abuse and culture of sexual abuse was reported to Ohio State administrators and to the head of the athletic department,” the complaint said. “But these officials turned a blind eye to the abuse.”
Ohio State said it was aware of the lawsuit and was reviewing the allegations.
“We are aware of reports that individuals at the university did not respond appropriately during that era,” said Benjamin Johnson, a spokesman for the university. “These allegations are troubling and are a critical focus of the investigation.”
Not mentioned in the lawsuit was U.S. Representative Jim Jordan, a former wrestling coach at the university, who was accused earlier this month by several former student wrestlers of failing to stop the molestation even after being told about it.
Ian Fury, a spokesman for Jordan, disputed the claims, telling Reuters immediately after the allegations were made that the Ohio Republican never saw or heard about any abuse, nor was it ever reported to him while he was a coach.
Michigan State University recently agreed to pay $500 million to settle claims by 332 women that they were sexually abused by gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who served at an on-campus clinic at the university and at the USA Gymnastics federation.
Nassar was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty last year to criminal sexual conduct.
In the 23-page lawsuit filed on Monday the four plaintiffs each alleged that they were “sexually assaulted, battered, molested, and/or harassed” by Strauss, mostly in the 1990s during their physicals. Strauss retired from the university in 1998 and committed suicide in 2005.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages to be determined by a jury and other damages and expenses.
Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Additional reporting by Tea Kvetenadze in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty