Late University of Michigan athletic doctor accused of sexual misconduct

Friday, February 21, 2020 - 3:21pm

Olympic wrestler Andy Hrovat has joined the list of former patients accusing late University of Michigan athletic doctor Robert Anderson of misconduct.

Olympic wrestler Andy Hrovat has joined the list of former patients accusing late University of Michigan athletic doctor Robert Anderson of misconduct. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

Late University of Michigan athletic doctor Robert Anderson was named in allegations of sexual abuse spanning from as early as the 1960s to the 1990s. The accusations come largely from former student-athletes. The Associated Press reported Thursday that Olympic wrestler Andy Hrovat has joined the list of former patients accusing Anderson of misconduct. 

Hrovat is the first athlete to publicly accuse the doctor. He told The Associated Press the encounters began his freshman year in 1998.

“I was warned about him from teammates, saying, ‘If anything happens and you go see the doctor, he’s going to inappropriately touch you, that's just what Dr. A does,’” Hrovat recalled.

Hrovat did not tell then-wrestling head coach Dale Bahr or anyone in the athletics department of the interactions. 

“In my mind, he normalized what he was doing and made you think that was just a normal part of the procedure,” he told The AP. “So why would you tell somebody?”

Gary Bailey, another former University student, told The AP about a medical examination conducted by Anderson during Bailey’s senior year in 1968 and 1969. He said he filed a complaint with the University Health Service, but did not hear from the University about the allegations.

In 2018, an individual wrote a letter to Athletic Director Warde Manuel accusing Anderson of sexual abuse during medical examinations in the 1970s. A formal investigation was launched in 2018 and the allegations were forwarded to the University’s Office of Institutional Equity and campus police. The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office declined to pursue criminal charges because the accused had been deceased since 2008. 

Steven Hiller, chief assistant prosecutor at the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office, told The Daily the office received the report about Anderson’s misconduct in the spring of 2019 and reviewed the possibility of criminal prosecution. The statute of limitations for sexual assault expired decades ago.  

“There really was no viable avenue for any prosecution, in this case, because of the age (of the allegations) and because the suspect was deceased,” Hiller said. 

Anderson, a former director of University Health Services, was also the subject of two lawsuits, including a medical malpractice suit in 1989 and a personal injury claim in 1995. In 1995, the accuser claimed Anderson left her feeling “confused, uncomfortable and violated” after a physical examination for a pre-employment examination, according to court documents obtained by MLive. Anderson denied these claims and the charges were dropped after the accuser stopped communicating with her lawyer. 

President Mark Schlissel announced Wednesday, the night before Hrovat’s statement, that the University was launching a formal investigation. During a meeting of the Board of Regents on Thursday, he personally apologized to “anyone who was harmed” by Anderson. 

“The patient-physician relationship involves a solemn commitment and trust,” Schlissel said. “The allegations are highly disturbing. On behalf of the University, I apologize to anyone who was harmed by Dr. Anderson … To those who reported Dr. Anderson and to anyone who has reported sexual misconduct in any case, I express my sincere gratitude for your courage.”

John Manly, lawyer for the hundreds of victims of Larry Nassar, told The AP Thursday that at least half a dozen individuals called his firm with accusations against Anderson. 

“As men in their 30s up to their 60s, there is a real shame associated with this,” he said. “Most didn’t speak up because they were concerned he wouldn’t clear them to play. And if you’re not cleared by the doctor, you lose your athletic scholarship. He had tremendous control. These at the time boys and young men were subjected to this stuff knowing that if they said anything, they were fearful he would retaliate.” 

The University is asking any of Anderson’s former patients who believe he subjected them to sexual misconduct to call 866-990-0111.

Daily Staff Reporter Alyssa McMurtry can be reached at amcmurt@umich.edu