ANN ARBOR – On Thursday morning, attorneys with Denver-based Wahlberg, Woodruff, Nimmo & Sloane held a press conference in Southfield with three victims of Dr. Robert E. Anderson, including the whistleblower who sent U-M athletic director Warde Manuel a letter in 2018 detailing his abuse at the hands of Anderson while a young wrestler at the school in the 1970s.
Lawyer Parker Stinar opened the press conference saying that his law firm represents more than a dozen athletes and non-athletes who suffered abuse from Anderson over several decades.
Three former wrestlers spoke at the press conference, including whistleblower Tad Deluca, Thomas Evashevski and Andy Hrovat. Hrovat, an Olympian, was the first victim to share his story about Anderson publicly.
Until Thursday, Deluca’s identity was not known. He said he was inspired in early 2018 by the women who came forward against former Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar. He decided to write a letter to Manuel after following the Nassar case, but it took him six months to write it.
“I had to have it perfect,” said Deluca. "It was really difficult.”
Stinar read excerpts from Deluca’s letter to Manuel, which detailed unnecessary exams by Dr. Anderson when he was a 19-year-old wrestler in the 1970s.
“The University of Michigan doctor felt my penis and testicles and inserted his finger into my rectum too many times for it to be considered diagnostic," wrote Deluca in 2018. He said he visited the doctor frequently for a dislocated elbow.
In 1975, Deluca wrote a letter to his wrestling coach Bill Johannesen alerting him to Anderson’s inappropriate behavior.
“Something is wrong with Dr. Anderson," he wrote. “Regardless of what you go in there for, he always makes you drop your drawers.”
He said that Anderson had commonly become known amongst athletes as Dr. “Drop Your Drawers” Anderson. In the heartfelt 9-page letter, he also expressed his frustration with the coaching staff for allowing this behavior to continue when so many athletes knew about it.
Johannesen responded by reading Deluca’s letter out loud to the entire wrestling team. Shortly after, U-M athletic director Don Canham wrote to Deluca alerting him that his financial aid had been withdrawn for the 1975-1976 academic year and that he was no longer on the wrestling team - a choice he alleged Deluca made on his own.
In response to Deluca’s letter, Johannesen wrote:
“Perhaps that explains why you were never a winner at Michigan. I wonder, Mr. Deluca, how such a moral, outstanding young man such as yourself could have allowed yourself to remain in a totally immoral situation. Mr. Deluca, you will not return to my wrestling room whether your scholarship is in effect. You will not be known as an athlete.”
No investigation was launched in 1975. The University of Michigan has not released these original correspondences.
In Tad’s 2018 letter to Manuel, he described the humiliation in the moment when his letter was read out loud to his teammates:
“In those few minutes, in front of my friends and teammates, the coach stripped away anything I had ever been."
Deluca said that Manuel sat on his letter for months, ignoring his allegations.
In an interview this week, Johannesen responded, “I would have responded to that immediately because I am their father (away from home). If they were to come to me and say ‘Dr. Anderson did something creepy’ or anything like that, I would have pursued (it).”
Deluca recalled walking down the hall with Evashevski -- who wrestled at U-M from 1972-1975 -- and met a football player who told them what his friend had experienced when he went to see Dr. “Drop Your Drawers” Anderson: “My friend Jimmy went in there for a shoulder and got the glove,” said the football player.
This, Deluca said, was the last straw for him.
During the press conference, Hrovat shared his experience at Michigan, and said what he went through caused him to avoid working with the athletic department in a professional capacity.
“I was at the tail end of Dr. Anderson’s tenure," said Hrovat. “When your teammates tell you beforehand … that you’re going to be touched inappropriately and things are going to get weird, just going into it – that mental psyche – is something I couldn’t deal with at the time ... It has stuck with me for years.”
During the press conference, Stinar called out the University of Michigan for decades of inaction, addressing his comments to Manuel, U-M President Mark Schlissel and the broader university community.
“Why didn’t you act in 1975 or earlier to prevent the sexual abuse of hundreds of possible victims?” he asked. “Why did you ignore Mr. Deluca’s cry for help in 1975?
“Time is up," he said. “Voices will no longer be silenced. It is time for the University of Michigan to accept responsibility for decades of sexual abuse and ignoring victims’ cries. It is time for the University of Michigan to be held accountable.”
Stinar said that a meeting is scheduled with the University of Michigan’s general council. He would not disclose the date of that meeting.
In addition, “a lawsuit has not yet been filed,” said Stinar.