U. of Michigan reaching out to ex-athletes about late doctor
CANTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — The University of Michigan is sending a letter to thousands of former student-athletes, asking them to speak with investigators from a law firm it hired to lead a probe into a deceased doctor accused of molesting people going back decades.
The Ann Arbor school said Tuesday that the letter, signed by athletics director Warde Manuel, is going out to most of the 6,800 former student-athletes who were on campus between the mid-1960s and the early 2000s.
Many men say they were molested by Dr. Robert E. Anderson while seeking treatment for various injuries. Anderson, who died in 2008, worked at the university for decades until his retirement in 2003.
The letter invites the ex-student-athletes to “come forward and speak to WilmerHale if you experienced abuse by Anderson or if you have information you believe may be relevant to understanding this situation.”
The school last month announced that it hired WilmerHale to replace another law firm, Steptoe & Johnson, with which it cut ties after learning some of that firm’s attorneys represented high-profile clients accused of sexual misconduct.
Michigan Athletics will send an email message to every living former student-athlete from that time frame for which it has a valid address, about 4,400 in all. That is being followed by a letter to be sent through the U.S. Postal Service this week to most of the 6,800 former student-athletes from that time frame. Some will receive both the email and the mailed letter.
The university announced in February that it was investigating allegations of abuse against Anderson, and it offered counseling to anyone affected by the alleged misconduct.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Tuesday that as of last week 168 unique complaints had been received, most via a hotline, to report complaints regarding Anderson.
The revelations at Michigan echo high-profile allegations and investigations of sexual abuse made by patients of sports doctors at other universities, including Michigan State, Ohio State and Minnesota.
Mike Cox, a former Michigan attorney general, has filed lawsuits against the University of Michigan on behalf of about three-dozen men listed as John Does. He calls the school’s letter-sending effort “window dressing.”
“I view the WilmerHale investigation as window dressing and not something that is going to move the ball for any of the victims,” Cox said.