Former wrestler sues University of Michigan over doctor abuse

A former University of Michigan wrestler filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday alleging the school ignored warnings that former team doctor Robert Anderson was sexually abusing his patients.

The anonymous plaintiff wrestled at Michigan from 1984 to 1989. According to the lawsuit, he first was violated by Anderson as a 17-year-old freshman, and Anderson continued to molest and grope him on a regular basis during the remainder of his time as a student-athlete.

"One illustrative incident is when plaintiff scratched his arm while wrestling on the mat during a summer training session, and he was told by leadership to see Anderson about the bleeding," the lawsuit states.

"During his appointment for his arm, Anderson told plaintiff to drop his pants, and Anderson sexually assaulted, abused and molested" him, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says the plaintiff is seeking compensation as well as "other declaratory, equitable, and/or injunctive relief, including, but not limited to implementation of institutional reform and measures of accountability to ensure the safety and protection of young athletes and other individuals."

The wrestler's attorney, Mike Cox, told ESPN that he and 10 former Michigan athletes met with officials from the school Wednesday morning. After the meeting "went nowhere," Cox said they decided a lawsuit was necessary, adding that he expects to file lawsuits on behalf of at least 10 more clients in the coming days.

"They feel betrayed," Cox said.

More than 100 others have contacted Michigan in the past two weeks with complaints about Anderson. The university established a public hotline for calls about the doctor in late February on the same day that The Detroit News published the first public complaints made about him.

A spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said their office is aware of the situation and that "It's certainly something that is being discussed within our office.''

Anderson worked at the university from 1968 through 2003, including decades during which he treated athletes on the football and wrestling teams, among others.

Tad Deluca, who wrestled for Michigan in the 1970s, said at a news conference last week that he alerted his former coach and former athletic director to Anderson's abuse in 1975. He said he was ostracized for raising his concerns and ultimately lost his scholarship and his spot on the wrestling team.

Wrestlers, football players, hockey players and other students not involved in athletics have also said they were abused by Anderson.

"Their coaches would all joke around about Dr. A," Cox told ESPN. "Everyone knew about it."

Deluca contacted current athletic director Warde Manuel by letter in 2018 to explain what happened to him during his time as a Michigan athlete. That letter eventually prompted a police investigation that found some former university employees missed warning signs about Anderson. Prosecutors in Washtenaw County declined to press charges, largely because Anderson died more than a decade ago.

University president Mark Schlissel apologized to all victims of Anderson in a statement last month. The school has hired a D.C.-based law firm to investigate how the university handled past complaints about Anderson.

"The university engaged a firm with deep expertise to conduct an independent, thorough, and unflinching review of the facts -- wherever they may lead," university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in a statement last week. "Through the work of this independent firm, there will be a full, public accounting of the harms caused by Anderson as well as the institutional failings that allowed him to keep practicing."

Deluca said he was sexually assaulted by Anderson when he visited him for an elbow injury. The anonymous plaintiff said in Wednesday's lawsuit that Anderson made him drop his pants and digitally penetrated him when he visited the doctor to get help with the cut on his arm.

Parker Stinar, an attorney who represents Deluca and dozens other clients, said Wednesday evening that his clients remain hopeful that they will be able to hold the university accountable without filing a lawsuit. Stinar and his colleague, Michael Nimmo, also met with university officials this week. Nimmo described the school's approach thus far as "open, honest" and "sincere."

A trio of law firms that represented hundreds of victims in the Larry Nassar sexual assault case at nearby Michigan State are also planning a news conference for later this week. They have not participated in any discussions or meetings with Michigan at this point.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.