Man accused of giving student-athlete steroids pleads not guilty

Man accused of giving student-athletes steroids

A former Donaldsonville High School strength coach and physical education teacher pleaded not guilty Thursday to drug and juvenile delinquency charges arising from accusations he gave an unsuspecting student-athlete anabolic steroids earlier this year.

Curtis Tsuruda, 56, 112 Derek Lane, LaPlace, entered his initial plea during an arraignment before 23rd Judicial District Judge Guy Holdridge at the parish Courthouse Annex in Gonzales, prosecutors said. The judicial district encompasses Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Verdigets said no trial date has been set but Tsuruda’s next court date is Sept. 2.

Ascension Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested Tsuruda on April 1 after he reportedly admitted that he gave methandienone pills to a 16-year-old student-athlete at Donaldsonville High.

Sheriff’s detectives later searched Tsuruda’s home in St. John the Baptist Parish and found steroids.

Deputies have said Tsuruda told the student the drugs were amino acid/protein pills. The youth’s parents noted mood changes in their child, however, after the student had taken the pills for about a week or two. They reported the situation to sheriff’s deputies.

Deputies have said they did not have information Tsuruda gave steroids to other students. Ascension schools spokesman Johnnie Balfantz said Thursday school officials also are not aware of any other incidents.

Methandienone is an anabolic steroid, a synthetic variant of the naturally occurring male hormone testosterone, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration online fact sheet says.

Steroids are often used to boost muscle building and athletic performance but can have other psychological and physical effects, including dramatic mood swings and increased aggression and stunted growth in teens.

Deputies booked Tsuruda on April 1 on counts of distribution of methandienone, violation of the controlled dangerous substance school zone law, distribution to a student and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.

Prosecutors filed bills of information against Tsuruda on the same counts on June 6.

J. Price McNamara, Tsuruda’s defense attorney, said his client is a good person and family man who has had a stellar career. But McNamara declined to speak about his client’s case, saying he would allow the judicial system to work.

“I think when all the facts are in, it will deliver a fair result,” McNamara said.

Balfantz, the school spokesman, said school officials placed Tsuruda on administrative leave immediately upon his arrest April 1. Tsuruda was terminated April 9 after school and sheriff’s investigations were completed, Balfantz said.

Tsuruda is free on bail of $40,000.

Earlier in Tsuruda’s coaching career, he had strength and conditioning positions at LSU, Tulane University and the University of Hawaii.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter at @NewsieDave.