Allegations against J Robinson disputed

The University is conducting a parallel investigation with UMPD into allegations of drug dealing.

Gophers wrestling head coach J Robinson during a team practice on Jan. 22, 2016.

Liam James Doyle

Gophers wrestling head coach J Robinson during a team practice on Jan. 22, 2016.

by Kevin Beckman

Amid allegations over University of Minnesota wrestling Coach J Robinson’s  attempt to self-police a drug problem within the wrestling team, Robinson’s agent disputed such claims on Monday.

The allegations arose last week after an anonymous source told the Star Tribune that Robinson collected about 1,400 pills of Xanax — a prescription sedative — from his team, opting to not report the issue to police.

The source told the Tribune that four teammates had obtained a stockpile of 2,500 Xanax pills from a former teammate and were selling the drug in the 17th Avenue residence hall.

In a statement issued Monday night, Robinson’s agent, James Bock, said Robinson had notified his superiors of the problem and did not try to address the problem by himself.

 “Pursuant to University of Minnesota Department of Intercollegiate Athletics policy Coach Robinson notified his direct supervisor within the Athletic Department of his concerns,” the statement said. “[Robinson] specifically notified the interim Athletic Department Director as well, and of his desire to have specific wrestlers tested.” 

Bock’s statement also called into question the legitimacy of the anonymous source.

“The media coverage to date appears to be a self-circulating story based on one, anonymous source,” Bock’s statement said. “Blather from anonymous sources and a media environment that disperses what it wants to be true rather than what actually is true is troubling.”

University spokesperson Evan Lapiska voiced similar concerns.

“[The coverage] was fueled by an anonymous source telling their side of it, and there wasn’t really a … second side of it,” Lapiska said. “We just want to stress that the University is not weighing in on the details of the investigation at this point. We’re committed to waiting until the investigation is complete.”

On Tuesday, the University announced  it will conduct an internal investigation of the allegations in tandem with the University’s police investigation.

“In close coordination with UMPD, we have received approval to initiate the internal investigation, and it is our intention to fully investigate the concerning allegations involving our students and staff,” the University’s statement said.

According to the statement, the school initially deferred a thorough internal investigation until the University’s police department had finished its own.

“The widespread reporting through anonymous sources of alleged details at the center of the investigation does not change the facts,” University President Eric Kaler said in a statement. “This is an active investigation, and we remain committed to allowing the process to play out free of interference by the University.”

Members of the University’s Board of Regents weighed in on the topic, saying they are following the issue closely and will wait for the conclusion of both investigations.

“If true, this is among the worst things our athletics department has gone through,” said Regent Michael Hsu. “We have to look at whether we have a systemic problem.”

Hsu added that the two investigations will need to determine whether or not Robinson was aware of his responsibilities under University policy.

“The question is whether or not Coach Robinson knew what he was supposed to do,” Hsu said. “If he did, we need to look at this issue further. … We need to make sure all the coaches know how to handle these things.”

Regent Thomas Devine said the board is “fully engaged” in following events as they develop, but that it’s still too early to draw conclusions.

“It’s a little early to make a determination,” Devine said. “To the extent that we need to act or do anything or follow up or follow any recommendations, we’re prepared to do that. … We’ll just let the normal course of events run through, and we’ll go from there”

Regent Thomas Anderson said the issue raises larger concerns about substance abuse by students.

“On a larger scale, it kind of tells us we’ve got to understand why our students are reaching out for alcohol and prescription drugs,” Anderson said. “It brings a bigger overall picture to what we can do to help with the health of these kids.”