Supervisor told police that U-M doctor didn’t deny abuse claims
ANN ARBOR (AP) — A former University of Michigan student who reported in 2018 that a doctor at the school had molested him during medical exams decades ago says he complained at the time to his wrestling coach and the school’s athletic director about the sexual abuse, according to documents released Friday by the prosecutor’s office.
The student also recalled Dr. Robert E. Anderson being known as “Dr. Drop your drawers Anderson” by athletes in the 1970s, according to the documents released to The Associated Press by prosecutors who reviewed a campus police investigation of the allegations against Anderson.
The records summarize police interviews beginning in 2018 with multiple former students reporting sexual abuse by the doctor and people who worked with him at the university’s Health Service and athletic department.
Anderson was the director of the University Health Service from 1968 until 1980 and served as a team physician for various sports at Michigan until his retirement in 2003. He died in 2008.
The university’s president this week apologized to “anyone who was harmed” by Anderson. Mark Schlissel’s comment came a day after the school announced that it had launched an investigation into the doctor’s behavior following abuse allegations from five former patients.
The documents released by the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office show that a former Michigan wrestler wrote to Athletic Director Warde Manuel in July 2018 with details about repeated fondling during medical exams decades earlier. The name of the wrestler was redacted in records released to The Associated Press.
In a four-page letter, the former wrestler accused the doctor of touching his penis and testicles, and inserting his finger into his rectum “too many times for it to have been considered diagnostic or therapeutic for the conditions and injuries that I had.”
The first time this happened was during his freshman year in 1972, when he went to the doctor for treatment for facial cold sores, according to the letter. The wrestler saw the doctor several more times for that condition and was inappropriately touched each time, he wrote.
“I didn’t like it, but I didn’t really pay much attention to it,” the letter said. “He was the doctor and it never occurred to me that he was enjoying what I was not.”
The wrestler said the doctor touched him again during his junior season after he dislocated an elbow.
“I found it strange that I needed a penis and hernia check,” he wrote.
The wrestler told Manuel that athletes on at least two other sports teams knew about Anderson’s conduct while he was at the school.
Bill Johannesen, who coached the Michigan wrestling team in the 1970s, told police that, while none of his athletes told him they were violated by a doctor, he did remember them “laughing” and “joking” about one particular doctor who told them to “take your pants down” for a “hurt elbow.” Asked by police to recall the doctor’s name, Johannesen said: “Dr. Anderson.”
Another member of the Michigan wrestling team in the 1970s told police that the doctor gave him a rectal exam when he went for treatment of an ankle injury. His name also was redacted from the documents.
The former wrestler told police that he felt abused but that “as an 18-year-old kid, you don’t think to question stuff like that.”
According to one police report, Tom Easthope, a former vice president of student life, told police he thought he had convinced Anderson to resign from the university decades ago.
Easthope said he heard from activists that Anderson was assaulting people during medical exams and decided to fire him. He said the doctor didn’t deny the allegations against him. Easthope told police he decided to allow Anderson to resign and believed he had gone into private practice until university police contacted him in 2018.
Police who spoke to Easthope said he was “visibly shaken” when he learned that Anderson didn’t leave the university until he retired decades later.
“Easthope thought Dr. Anderson was gone, gone for good,” investigators wrote in a search warrant for a malpractice insurance company’s records on Anderson.