Judge Dismisses Charges Against Teacher Accused of Distributing Drugs

All charges in a case against Massachusetts high school swim coach Elizabeth Backler have been dropped, according to the Boston Globe. Backler had been accused of giving drugs to a former student.

Backler was arrested back in the fall of 2015 on distribution charges. A high school teacher, high school swim coach and YMCA swim coach, the 28-year-old Backler was accused of giving a prescription painkiller pill to a high school swimmer after a meet to treat her shoulder pain. She was also accused of giving the same swimmer a prescription bottle. She was temporarily banned by USA Swimming for 7 years, with her suspension ending in 2022.

The drugs allegedly given to the 16-year-old member of the high school swim team included oxycodone and diazepam. The former is a powerful painkiller, while the latter (also known as Valium) is used to treat anxiety and insomnia, among other things. Backler was accused of giving the pill to the swimmer and telling the swimmer not to tell her mother. As early as January of 2016, Backler’s lawyer was asking for evidence to be thrown out in the case, claiming police obtained a list of Backler’s presciptions without a warrant.

Now this week, Lawrence District Court Judge Michael Uhlarik has thrown out all charges leveled against Backler. Backler’s lawyer told the Boston Globe that the coach was “not guilty” and had been “wrongly charged and wrongly arrested.” He also reiterated that Backler had lost both her teaching and coaching jobs over the arrest, and that she was “exploring all her options,” in terms of future teaching or coaching jobs.

The prosecution too expressed a belief that the criminal charges shouldn’t move forward, though they said it stemmed from a meeting with the alleged victim and her mother. Spokesperson Carrie Kimball Monahan said “it was in the best interest of the victim not to proceed at this time.”

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So will USA swimming lift her ban? Also I’d sue the hell out of her accuser, you can definitely make a case that it caused emotional distress


You want coaches medicating swimmers with strong narcotics? The lawyer didn’t deny the incident occurred just that it wasn’t a criminal case. The USA swimming ban is a grey area I think the seven years is pretty severe. I question if USA swimming really gives the accused a fair hearing or if they just get a copy of the criminal complaint and dole out whatever punishment they feel like


But she was cleared of all charges so as far as I’m concerned she didn’t do it


OJ Simpson??? Hopefully you understand the difference between a criminal act and inappropriate conduct by a swim coach.


It sounds like the prosecution dropped the charges because they felt it was better for the defendant to just let the issue die. Not exactly a ringing declaration of innocence. I agree that seven years is way too harsh, but we really haven’t been given a conclusive yes-or-no as to whether she really did give the swimmer a pill. If so, USA Swimming can sanction her regardless of what happens with the case (in which case, again, I feel like the ban should be less than seven years).


She was “cleared” because of crappy policing. USA swimming doesn’t have to abide by the 4th amendment and can actually make a judgment as to whether the coach did this. I am curious to see if it will follow the court, or run its own investigation.


Lawyers never deny these things – they just argue the law & the prosecutions case. The best outcome is to argue that there is no case to answer to .

Depending on the state – prosecutors are not always the most qualified in the room – sometimes very junior . They may not have ahad a very strong case at all. The State ( prosecution) is not always right either .

If the judge shut it down – the she is innocent .


Without knowing all the facts it is hard to say if this was to harsh or to lenient from USA Swimming. First and only time ever, it might be harsh, but if this was not the first and only time it might not be harsh enough. A lot (I hope most) coaches do not give out anything including Ibuprofen to their athletes without parental consent, or at least that is how it is on our team.


Since shes been cleared of all charges kind of harsh


Gotta trust the judgement here, I guess. We aren’t given much in the way of concrete details, but if she did actually give the swimmer any medication, she is in violation of USA Swimming’s rules regardless of whether or not the charges were dropped. I hope everything works out for her. I know a coach who was falsely accused of misconduct, and it was hell for him to come back from, even after the accuser recanted her testimony and admitted that she lied. The two days or so between her accusing him and her recanting were enough to ruin everything for him. He made it and is currently doing very well, but he also never had any sanctions placed on… Read more »

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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