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Coach Who Gave Pills to Youths Is Asked to Quit

September 28, 1986|JERRY CROWE and GARY KLEIN | Times Staff Writers

A Chatsworth youth football coach who gave over-the-counter diuretics to members of his team of 10- and 11-year-old boys has resigned amid pressure from the team's board of directors.

Ron Fidler, coach of the Chatsworth Chiefs Mity-Mite team of the Valley Youth Conference, said Saturday that he will announce his resignation Monday at a meeting of the conference's executive board.

Meanwhile, Claudine Dodd, who accused Fidler of giving water-loss pills to her 10-year-old son, Jeff, in a complaint filed with the Devonshire Division of the Los Angeles Police Department, said she believes that Fidler should be banned from youth sports for life.

Other parents, however, have drafted a letter in support of Fidler in which they ask that he be reinstated as coach.

The letter, which will be presented to the executive board at Monday's meeting, was circulated among parents Saturday during the Chiefs' 42-0 win over the Northridge Knights at Granada Hills High and was signed by parents of 18 of the team's 28 players, including at least one parent of a player who was given the pills.

"I think we feel that maybe he shouldn't have done it and there should be some kind of discipline like a probation period or suspension for a game or two," said Shari Rosen, whose son, David, was one of the players given the pills. "But I don't think he should be banned from sports or anything. That seems awfully drastic."

The Los Angeles city attorney's office said Friday that it will decide early next week whether to file criminal charges against Fidler.

Donna Barnhart, president of the Chatsworth Chiefs, said the team's board of directors asked Fidler to resign "in the best interests of youth sports. . . .

"We don't want the program to go down because parents think this kind of thing happens."

Said Fidler, 54, an attorney who has been a volunteer coach in the conference for 15 years: "When one parent can cause as much trouble as this lady, I can't see why I should want to devote all my time to coaching football. I want to put an end to it to stop hurting the program."

Fidler said he gave pills to five players on Sept. 11 to help them reduce to 115 pounds over two days. He said he did so to help the boys, not to make a better team. "Of the five players," he said, "four of them were the bottom subs."

At the weigh-in before the team's opening game on Sept. 13, all five players given the pills weighed more than the division's maximum of 115 pounds, Fidler said.

Fidler said he told parents at a preseason meeting attended by Dodd's husband, Barry, of his plan to make diuretics available to players who were within three pounds of the division limit.

"He was talking in generalities," Barry Dodd said. "He wasn't saying, 'I'm going to give this to your son.' . . . It wasn't directed to me as an individual. . . . Unless it comes down to you as an individual, it doesn't sink in as deep."

Claudine Dodd said she was "appalled" when she found out from a neighbor on Sept. 15 that her son had taken the pills.

"The issue is not whether he told anybody," she said of Fidler. "The issue is, he did it. He gave pills to kids, which goes against everything we're trying to teach our children to do.

"My son is going through the DARE program at school. Dare to say no. The police department doesn't want these kids to take pills from anybody. And here they say, 'It's OK if the coach says it's OK.' "

The Dodds have contacted a lawyer, they said, but have not decided whether they will pursue legal action against Fidler. They said they filed a police complaint on the advice of their attorney.

According to the conference's constitution and bylaws, a coach "shall not permit the use of any artificial means of dehydrating any player."

Still, several parents at Saturday's game supported Fidler.

"I don't think he meant anything harmful to any of these kids," said Louis Saiz, whose son, Mike, plays for the Chiefs. "He just wanted to see them play. There was no criminal intent at all.

"For him to be treated like a criminal, I think, is unjust."

But the Dodds, whose son has quit the team, believe that Fidler set a bad precedent.

"It must be a big temptation for all teams to do something to get these kids below weight," Barry Dodd said. "It could happen again next year. I guess that's what we're fighting. The league needs to police itself better. There was a rule and he broke it. . . .

"If you're going to break rules, why even have them?"

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