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Huntington cross country coaches on leave after sex assault allegations

HUNTINGTON, Ind. -- A northeastern Indiana university placed its women's cross country head coach and an assistant on leave Thursday after two former runners claimed in a federal lawsuit they were doped and sexually assaulted.

Huntington University, a private, Christian liberal arts university, said it placed head coach Lauren Johnson and assistant coach Curtis Hines on administrative leave until further notice.

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court names as defendants former coach Nicholas Johnson; his wife, current coach Lauren Johnson; assistant coach Curtis Hines; the university; its trustees; and unnamed administrators. The runners are seeking damages from all the defendants.

The complaint claims the Johnsons instilled a program at the university where some team members were invited to partake in a "study" or "experiment." Nicholas Johnson would also rub unknown substances on the runners, it said.

The runners claim Nicholas Johnson would perform massages or "treatments" on them and sexually assault them.

According to the lawsuit, the runners say Hines and Lauren Johnson knew about the abuse but did nothing. University officials were aware or should have been aware of the abuse and did nothing to protect the runners, the lawsuit said.

The university issued a statement saying it "has and continues to provide a variety of opportunities and directed avenues for students who were impacted to be heard, obtain counseling services, and make Title IX inquiries. We remain committed to providing a workplace and educational environment, as well as other benefits, programs, and activities, that are free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation."

Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial aid.