LAWsuit: Huntington U cross-country and track program allowed doping, rape

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WANE) — Two former Huntington University cross-country and track runners allege in a federal lawsuit that they were doped, sexually assaulted and raped by a coach — and that school officials and other coaches condoned the abuse.

Attorneys for the runners, who WANE TV does not identify, filed the lawsuit in the US District Court of Northern Indiana late last week.

The lawsuit names former coach Nicholas Johnson and his wife, current coach Lauren Johnson and assistant coach Curtis Hines, the university, the university board of trustees and unnamed administrators as defendants.

When asked for comment, HD officials released the following statement:

“The University’s leadership has been made aware that a civil lawsuit has been filed naming the University and individuals affiliated with the University, both past and present. Huntington University is conducting its due diligence but cannot comment further at this time.”

In the lawsuit, the runners allege the Johnsons — Nicholas Johnson was head coach while his wife was assistant coach as of 2018 — used an illegal performance-enhancing doping program that the coaching duo learned years earlier while running in the Pacific Northwest.

Lauren Johnson, who ran for Huntington University before joining the Oregon Track Club, qualified for the 2015 United States World Championships team and competed at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

According to the lawsuit, Nicholas Johnson was part of a running program led by disgraced long-distance runner Alberto Salazar, who was banned from the USDA for four years in 2019 for doping.

One of the runners who filed the lawsuit joined the HD program in 2019, while the other joined in 2020.

In the lawsuit, the runners allege the Johnsons instituted the doping program, in which some of the team members were invited to take part in a “study” or “experiment” supported by a shoe brand and the athletic director of Huntington University.

In 2019, one of the runners was one of a select few who received injections of an unknown substance every two weeks and were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements. The other runner became part of a similar program the next year, according to the indictment in the lawsuit.

Nicholas Johnson would also rub the runners with unknown substances, the lawsuit says.

Both Hines and Lauren Johnson knew about the doping program and did nothing to stop the distribution of the drugs, the lawsuit said.

The runners also allege Nicholas Johnson sexually assaulted them in the same manner as Larry Nassar, the disgraced Michigan State University and U.S. Gymnastics National Team physician who was charged with sexually beating and raping athletes over the course of nearly two years been convicted for decades.

Inside the suit, the runners claim Nicholas Johnson would perform massages or “treatments” on them and sexually assault them. The lawsuit also alleges that Nicholas Johnson raped a runner multiple times.

The runners claim Hines and Lauren Johnson knew about the abuse but took no action, the lawsuit says.

The runners also allege in the lawsuit that they were “mentally tortured” by verbal abuse from Nicholas Johnson and that he sexually hit them in front of members of Huntington University.

The lawsuit alleges that university officials should have known about the abuse and did nothing to protect the runners.

In 2020, Nicholas Johnson was charged with two counts of child seduction, kidnapping and identity fraud. In that case, he was charged with performing improper medical procedures on a person between the ages of 16 and 18, according to Huntington Superior Court documents.

Ultimately, Nicholas Johnson was convicted of identity fraud and served 30 days in prison and two years of house arrest. He was fired as a coach from Huntington University.

Still, the runners in the lawsuit allege that the university allowed Nicholas Johnson to be heavily involved in the cross-country program and even forced members to write positive testimonies about the former coach “and what Mr. Johnson means to them.”

The university then hired Lauren Johnson, who was still living with Nicholas, as the new head coach. In the lawsuit, the former team members allege the university encouraged other team members to visit Nicholas Johnson’s home for advice and fellowship.

The runners also allege in the lawsuit that Nicholas Johnson continues to coach and mentor teen runners from across Northeast Indiana at his home.

According to the lawsuit, a runner shared the story of the abuse — both verbal and written — with the Huntington Police Department. Police confirmed a report had been prepared, but a copy of the report was not available Tuesday.

Earlier this week, several attorneys appeared in federal court on behalf of the runners, according to court filings and documents. The court also issued subpoenas to the defendants named in the lawsuit.

The runners are demanding compensation from all parties involved. LAWsuit: Huntington U cross-country and track program allowed doping, rape

Dais Johnston

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