ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The first former University of Michigan football player to publicly say that a team doctor abused him believes he would have sought medical help sooner for what has become late-stage cancer if he hadn't been victimized in college.
Chuck Christian, a 60-year-old artist in suburban Boston, said during a videoconferencing interview Wednesday that the late Dr. Robert Anderson gave him unnecessary rectal exams before he played for the Wolverines during the 1977-80 seasons.
Christian said he has stage 4 prostate cancer that could have been treated sooner and more effectively if he wasn't emotionally scarred by Anderson's annual physicals.
“I’m kind of surprised that nobody else (from the football program) has spoken out,” Christian told The Associated Press. “For me, it’s made an even bigger impact because I wouldn’t go see a doctor because of Dr. Anderson.
“And because I didn’t go to the doctor, my prostate issues went from being a prostate issue to prostate cancer," he added.
Christian, who is represented by attorney Michael Wright, is one of hundreds of University of Michigan graduates who allege that Anderson molested them under the guise that the abuse was a normal part of the physicals they had to get in order to participate in sports.
Wright said he represents more than 120 people, including others who played football and basketball at the school, who have potential claims against Anderson and the school for not protecting student-athletes from him.
The Ohio-based lawyer said he has had multiple conversations with the University of Michigan's general counsel and is trying to reach an out-of-court agreement on behalf of his clients.
More than two months ago, the school in Ann Arbor revealed it was investigating multiple allegations of abuse against Anderson, who died in 2008.
The university’s president has apologized to “those who were harmed” by Anderson, and officials have acknowledged that some campus employees were aware of accusations against the doctor before a 2018 complaint that led to a police investigation.
“We have great admiration for Chuck Christian and other former U-M athletes who are bravely stepping forward to share their stories," university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.
Earlier this month, the school sent a letter to thousands of former student-athletes asking them to speak with investigators from a law firm it hired to lead an investigation into the allegations against Anderson.
Fitzgerald said that as of last week, 229 unique complaints had been received via a hotline established to report complaints regarding Anderson.
The revelations at Michigan echo other high-profile allegations and investigations of sexual abuse made by patients of sports doctors at other universities, including Michigan State and Ohio State. Two months ago, the University of Minnesota began investigating allegations that a former assistant coach on the men’s hockey team sexually abused players more than 30 years ago.
Christian, who was born in Mississippi and raised in Detroit, played tight end for the late Bo Schembechler and closed his playing career by helping Michigan win the 1981 Rose Bowl.
Although Christian said Anderson's actions were widely known decades ago by players, he does not think anyone shared their concerns with Schembechler.
“I can’t imagine coach Schembechler knowing something like that, and allowing it to happen to his players," he said. “I just can’t even fathom that."
Schembechler, who died in 2006, led the Wolverines from 1969-89 and ended his career with 194 wins at what is college football’s winningest program. His career coaching record was 234-65-8, including six seasons at Miami of Ohio.
Since making the decision to go public with allegations against Anderson, Christian said fellow former Wolverines have expressed their support.
“I’ve had players say to me, `Chuck, thank you for being our voice and telling our stories,'" he recalled, choking back tears. “It’s not just my story. It’s all of our stories. Mine is just a little different because of the cancer.”
This story has been corrected to reflect that the University of Minnesota official accused of abuse was an assistant coach on the men's hockey team, not a sports doctor at the school.
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