Investigators probing allegations that Ohio State University's former wrestling team doctor sexually abused athletes are now looking into reports that the facility where the athletes trained was a “sexually exploitative atmosphere,” the law firm overseeing the inquiry reported Thursday.
The firm also reported that the number of former Ohio State students who have said they were molested by Dr. Richard Strauss has now climbed to 145, Kathleen Trafford, an attorney for the law firm Porter Wright, wrote in a letter to top officials at Ohio State.
Trafford added that the “fact-gathering phase of the investigation” won’t be finished until sometime this fall. Porter Wright was brought in by the state to oversee the investigation, and it hired lawyers from the firm Perkins Coie to investigate Strauss.
More than a dozen former Ohio State wrestlers had previously told NBC News that voyeurs regularly showed up at Larkins Hall, their training facility, to watch them shower and that Strauss often showered with the team.
Trafford said that the investigators are now looking into those allegations.
“The investigative team has received reports of a sexually exploitative atmosphere in Larkins Hall, the University gymnasium and natatorium demolished in 2005, and is running those to ground,” Trafford wrote. (A natatorium is a building housing a swimming pool.)
Trafford also reported that the investigators have interviewed more than 100 people who worked at Ohio State from 1979 to 1997.
“They include staff and faculty from the Department of Athletics, Wexner Medical Center and the Student Health Center, as well as administrators, human resources professionals and legal counsel,” Ohio State said in a press release.
Among those who were interviewed was Rep. Jim Jordan, a powerful Ohio Republican who was an assistant wrestling coach from 1986 to 1994.
Six former Ohio State wrestlers interviewed by NBC News have accused Jordan of turning a blind eye to the alleged abuse by Strauss, saying they believe he must have known about it. Just one of those wrestlers said he told Jordan directly about Strauss' inappropriate behavior, and his account was corroborated by another wrestler.
Jordan has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the allegations against Strauss and has said he didn’t even hear any locker room talk about the doctor. Some wrestlers have said they believe Jordan didn't know about Strauss' alleged misbehavior.
Jordan's spokesman, Ian Fury, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
In addition to molesting student-athletes during medical appointments, Strauss is also believed to have molested male students he treated at Ohio State's Student Health Services and at a private facility off campus he established in 1996, Trafford reported.
Former Ohio State nursing student Brian Garrett, who worked with Strauss at the off-campus clinic, described in a video made by whistleblowing ex-wrestler Michael DiSabato how he was groped by the doctor when he sought treatment for heartburn.
DiSabato, former Ohio State wrestling coach Russ Hellickson, and another former wrestler named Mark Coleman also appear on the heavily edited 11-minute video, in which they describe Strauss’ alleged behavior and how they caught intruders having sex in the wrestling room or watching the athletes shower.
“Certainly all my administrators recognized it was an issue for me,” Hellickson says in the footage.
Investigators are also sifting through some 525 boxes of university records going back several decades and reached out for more records to “third parties not affiliated with the University,” Trafford wrote.
“It must be recognized that, as a result of the temporal span of this undertaking, the investigators are searching for documentary evidence dating back several decades, from the largely ‘pre-digital’ age,” Trafford wrote. “The significant passage of time that has occurred since Strauss’ tenure at the university brings with it the additional challenge of scattered witnesses who must first be identified, then located, and then willing to cooperate. In fact, some key witnesses are no longer alive.”
Strauss killed himself in 2005. In a statement this summer, his son, Scott, said his family was “shocked and saddened to hear the allegations of misconduct against the late Dr. Richard H. Strauss.”