Police say an unpaid assistant coach at Moorpark High has told investigators that the pills he supplied to players were salt tablets and not a narcotic substance.
Larry Preston, 22, is under investigation by the Ventura County Sheriff's Department on suspicion of distributing drugs to several members of the team, said Mike Brown, Moorpark's acting police chief. School officials dismissed Preston, a first-year coach, last week.
"The suspected coach maintains that he only gave the players salt pills," Brown said. "He said he felt that, by giving them a placebo, he could give them an edge in a game."
Preston, who lives in Simi Valley, refused comment Tuesday.
Police are continuing the investigation. Team members were asked to identify samples of the pills reportedly supplied to them by Preston, Brown said. No arrests have been made and no charges have been filed pending laboratory-test results, which are expected today, Brown said.
Once the results are obtained, the investigation will be dropped or charges will be filed, possibly as soon as Thursday, he said.
Administrators learned of the allegations after players brought the matter to the coaches' attention last week, said Mike Slater, superintendent of Moorpark Unified School District. Preston was dismissed immediately after an Oct. 13 meeting with school officials, Slater said.
Eleven players--who were not identified--told police that they took a substance supplied by Preston, Brown said. Players contacted Tuesday refused comment.
Brown said the investigation indicates that a substance had been supplied to players "for the last two or three games, at least back into September," and that players were not told what the pills were.
"All he apparently told them is that it would help their performance," Brown said, "and that it would make them play better."
Brown said players would not be subject to prosecution if the pills are determined to be narcotic.
"We're looking at the players as victims," Brown said.
Moorpark Principal Cary Dritz said the players probably would not face punishment at school. Coach Bob Noel said Monday that there had been no suspensions in connection with the allegations.
Dritz said that the school district has no method of evaluating volunteer coaches but that the issue may soon be examined by the school board.
Noel, who is not a suspect, refused comment. Dritz declined to speculate on whether the incident would affect Noel's status as coach.
Moorpark is a four-year high school with an enrollment of 725. The team competes in the Tri-Valley League and has a 1-5 record.