By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - An attorney for former Amateur Athletic Union president Robert "Bobby" Dodd said on Friday his client is "no pedophile" and is "devastated" by the allegations of sexual abuse against him.
"Bobby is no pedophile," defense attorney Steve Farese told Reuters in a telephone interview. "I'm as positive as I can be of that."
Dodd has been accused by two former youth basketball players of sexual abuse in the 1980s in Memphis. The name of a possible third alleged sex abuse victim was uncovered in November by a private investigator, AAU president Louis Stout said earlier this week.
Though no charges have been filed, Farese said Dodd sought a lawyer "because of the salacious nature of the allegations and the fact he was being besmirched in the media."
Dodd was unavailable for comment. The AAU said he has been treated for colon cancer. Dodd has been "severed" from the organization and will not be returning, AAU president Stout said earlier this week.
The two alleged victims spoke on sports network ESPN last Friday. The allegations followed child sex abuse scandals involving sports programs at Pennsylvania State University and Syracuse University which have raised awareness of the problem.
Farese said his client is "devastated" and "depressed" by the allegations.
"He's bewildered and it's a lifetime of work similar to Paterno in his field," said Farese, referring to legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who was fired after former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexual abuse.
Farese said Dodd "built the AAU into the powerhouse it is today... And now his legacy is stained. It doesn't matter if he is ever charged, it doesn't matter if he's ever convicted, his name will always be associated with these allegations."
Farese also is critical of Memphis authorities for holding a press conference Monday to confirm they were investigating the child molestation allegations, but also to urge alleged victims to contact police.
"Whenever the prosecutors think it is best to go on TV and encourage people to come forward, it always scares me that some nuts are going to roll out of the forest," said Farese.
Since Monday, one of the two men who spoke with ESPN has been interviewed by police.
Farese said Dodd told him the allegations "are totally fictitious and he can't understand why anyone would say these things about him."
"It causes him to question everything he's done in the last 30 years, such as help pay their tuition, get them in school, buy them a pair of glasses if they needed them, help them purchase automobiles when they couldn't get financing, help them get jobs," Farese said. "It's one of those feelings of 'I've tried to do the right thing, and now I'm being crucified and I will never have my good name back.'"
Farese is best-known as attorney for Mary Winkler of Tennessee, convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 2007 after she shot her preacher husband in the back with a shotgun while he slept.
The defense focused on allegations of abuse by the pastor. After a brief stay in jail, Winkler has regained custody of the couple's children. Her case was turned into a TV movie, "The Pastor's Wife."
The AAU is one of the biggest nonprofit volunteer sports organizations in the country with more than half a million children involved in its programs. It is the main venue for aspiring youth basketball players to show their skills to college coaches around the country at spring and summer tournaments. AAU coaches often chaperone the players on these trips where players stay in hotels without their parents.
(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)