Our newspaper has been full of information recently about Gophers coach J Robinson and his handling of knowledge that some of his wrestlers were allegedly using or selling the drug Xanax. So I asked one of the top lawyers in the nation, Joe Friedberg of Minneapolis, how he sizes up the situation.

“I’m afraid there’s going to be a difference in my mind of what should happen and what will happen,” Friedberg said. “The law is pretty over-technical at times, but it really needs to be applied with some discretion. J was doing the right thing, and I hate to see somebody get in trouble for doing the right thing, and I’m afraid it might be heading in that direction.”

A Gophers wrestler, who spoke to the Star Tribune on condition of anonymity, said Robinson offered amnesty to the athletes suspected of using or selling Xanax if they wrote one-page confessional letters. The source said the wrestlers selling the drug had acquired 2,500 Xanax pills and turned 1,400 of them over to Robinson.

Friedberg said that while this is a team with members accused of using or selling drugs, it has nothing to do with steroids or trying to improve performance.

“It’s not a performance-enhancing drug certainly, but it’s an anti-anxiety drug,” he said. “You find a lot of this stuff on the streets, and Xanax in prisons. It kind of gives you a relaxing high. It certainly has nothing to do with making you a better wrestler or a better athlete of any kind. It’s a party drug.”

What does he think could happen to the wrestlers if they’re charged?

“I would expect that the two guys, if I read [the story] correctly … who were selling the drugs will probably get prosecuted in Hennepin County,” he said. “Nothing overly serious, I don’t think, will happen to them, because this is a very small drug case. But clearly they’re in for a lot of disciplinary problems, and they’ll probably be kicked off the team if they haven’t been already. The thing that I worry about is that Coach didn’t have a legal reason to be in possession of those drugs, and I hope that the prosecutors use their discretion and not charge him with possession of those drugs.”

 Potential liability

Friedberg was asked how much liability Robinson has because, technically, he was illegally in possession of prescription narcotics.

“This is where [there’s a] difference between an overly technical prosecutor and one with some discretion, which I hope we have in Hennepin County,” Friedberg said. “Technically, he can’t possess those drugs without a prescription and that’s a crime. But we’re hoping the prosecutors don’t prosecute him. It would be an overly technical application because he got them in a way that he was trying to do, as we said, the right thing. I guess somebody could prosecute him if they wanted to, but I would hope they wouldn’t.”

Friedberg doesn’t believe Robinson will go to jail. But the big worry, according to Friedberg, is if the drugs are or were being used by athletes on other Gophers teams.

“It sure could, because first of all, a lot of accidents take place with this kind of drug,” he said. “I don’t mean driving accidents, I mean overdoses, that type of thing. They really need to do an investigation here and take whatever steps they can to monitor their athletes.”

Friedberg was asked if he had any thoughts about how this type of situation could be prevented in the future.

“I would have thought the way you prevent this stuff from happening is having the kind of culture Robinson had on his team,” Friedberg said. “You’re really taking the place of the athletes’ parents when they’re wrestling for you or competing in any other sport. The coach kind of becomes a surrogate father, and I guess you just have to monitor them closer. It’s the only thing I can say.”

Friedberg said Xanax can even be obtained through the mail, so it’s tough to police.

“You’re not supposed to be able to, but internet pharmacies are extremely prevalent,” he explained. “There actually is a prescription issued, but you just don’t know it’s being issued.”

 

Edwards on Waynes

Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards says that last year’s first-round draft pick, cornerback Trae Waynes, will need to continue to improve during the offseason if he’s to play more.

“We expect him to continue to compete,” Edwards said. “He’s doing a good job this offseason, he seems to have recalled a lot from his first year. He’s learned a lot. [He should] just continue to work on the fundamentals and the techniques that we’re working between the different concepts that we have coverage-wise to take the next step.”

Waynes improved as the season went on, recording 12 tackles over the final four regular-season games and grabbing his first NFL interception in the Vikings’ playoff loss to Seattle. But the team has to hope he’s ready to take a big step in his second season.

 

Jottings

• Friedberg, who is one of the area’s biggest fans of horse racing at Canterbury Park, was asked what kind of season the track is having.

“Canterbury is going great,” he said. “Canterbury is probably the most bettor-friendly and horseman-friendly track in America. They take a smaller cut away from the bettors than any track in America and they are run by good people.”

• Viking alumni such as Alan Page, Bob Lurtsema Dave Osborn, new Hill-Murray football coach Pete Bercich and Mick Tingelhoff showed up Thursday at St. Paul’s Linwood Monroe Elementary school, along with most of the current roster, at the annual Vikings playground build. Tingelhoff, speaking for the first time about being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last August, never thought he had a chance to get the honor. He played center for the Vikings from 1962-78 and was named to six Pro Bowls, but was bypassed by Hall of Fame voters until last year.

•  The Howard Pulley 17U team played in the Nike EYBL tournament in Suwanee, Ga., over the weekend. The team had been unbeaten going into that tournament, but lost 69-60 to CIA Bounce. Brad Davison of Maple Grove had 20 points and Apple Valley’s Gary Trent Jr. had 11 points. Then they beat their next two opponents — E1T1 United 62-57, with Davison scoring 21 and Trent 18, and Houston Hoops 64-57, with Davison scoring 17 and Trent 15.

• While Twins outfielder Byron Buxton has had his struggles in the majors, he is the leading vote-getter for the International League All-Star Game. Rochester second baseman James Beresford also is leading the voting at his position. … The Twins’ 2014 first-round draft pick, Nick Gordon, is having a good season at Class A Fort Myers. He’s hitting .289 with a .341 on-base percentage, nine doubles, three triples and two home runs.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com