Where drugs go, lies usually follow

March 22, 1995|By Will McDonough | Will McDonough,Boston Globe

It was two months after the New England Patriots drug scandal came to the surface following their flop in the Super Bowl. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle was standing at the front of the room, addressing the media on many issues, when a question came from the floor about the Patriots and drugs.

"Well, our security people are looking into it, and we are aware of an episode in Miami," said Rozelle. "But we haven't received a full report yet."

"Commissioner," a reporter came back, "[Coach Raymond] Berry says that nothing ever took place in Miami. It wasn't true."

I was sitting at the back of the room with John Madden, who leaned over and whispered in my ear, "This is what is bad about this drug stuff. Everyone lies. When it happens, everyone starts to cover up, and it's nothing but lies after that."

Big John was right. The Patriots and their stooges in the media went into the lie-and-cover-up mode. Ron Borges of the Boston Globe, who reported the original story, became a target. He was ripped apart locally.

But then, years later, Tony Collins of the Patriots went down and out on drugs. Then he 'fessed up. Borges was right. The rest of them were lying, including himself. Shortly thereafter, Irving Fryar stepped up. Borges was right. Everyone was lying. Later on, this writer had lunch with Raymond Clayborn, who said the thing that bothered the fingered players most was that there were plenty others on the team doing drugs who weren't exposed by the media.

Now let's fast-forward to the present. Here come the lies all over again. People step up and say they were present when Reggie Lewis did cocaine and the chorus comes back that they are lying. Reggie never did drugs, his family and friends say. A Northeastern official says Reggie tested positive for cocaine while he was in school. Former athletic director Irwin Cohen takes the fall and is suspended. The Northeastern team doctor says he can't recall Reggie testing positive. The coach at the time, Karl Fogel, seems to remember that Reggie might have tested positive but he isn't sure. Lies and more lies.

Are we to believe that Cohen, who has been nothing but a solid guy in this community his whole life, suddenly makes up a story that gets him suspended? What is he, some kind of nut?

Derrick Lewis, Reggie's friend and teammate, goes on the record saying he did drugs with Reggie. Reggie's family and former Northeastern teammates lash out at Derrick Lewis. Why would Derrick Lewis want to lie? He is admitting that he has been a drug user. He knows he is going to get his old teammates upset at him.

Remember, 10 of these fine lads tested positive shortly before an NCAA playoff game, according to Northeastern. More lies. Everyone is lying for Reggie and trying to cover up.

It says in this space there is no question Reggie Lewis did drugs. If this drags on, more people will go on record saying they did it up with Reggie than there are people who claim to have been in Fenway Park when Ted Williams hit his last home run. The ballpark was more than half-empty but the entire city remembers being there.

There are people coming on the record saying they did drugs -- socially -- with Reggie in 1985 and others saying 1993. Eight years is a long social period.

A question that goes back all the way to his college days is, why didn't someone reach out to stop him?

Where was Jim Calhoun (his coach before Fogel), and Fogel, and basketball adviser Keith Motley when all of this was going on?

Didn't they know that Reggie, and his teammates, were getting a virtual free ride through the university, missing classes, having others do papers and take tests, and somehow coming up with the marks to stay eligible? I can't wait for Northeastern president John Curry's blue ribbon committee to come out with that report. If it's on the level, a lot of people involved at the top of the basketball program in those days are going to be running for cover.

And how about the NBA and the Celtics? Do you know that the NBA does not regard marijuana as a drug and, therefore, the league does not test for it? The government says it's a drug, but not the NBA.

The drug policies in pro sports are a farce, but the NBA's is the most hypocritical.

A player is tested only when he comes into the league. So players are told by their agents to be clean for the test, then get a free ticket for your whole career. The only way they get tested thereafter is if they get busted on the street.

The reason the NBA doesn't want marijuana as part of the testing program is that it doesn't want to know. Otherwise, it must deal with the problem.

This accounts for only six players testing positive, according to reports, since 1980. Marijuana stays in a person's system for 36 days. Cocaine is passed in 48-72 hours. Many players would not be smart enough to stay off the junk for 36 days before a marijuana test.

Example: This past February in Indianapolis, some 300 top college football prospects were invited to the annual Scouting Combine and told they will be tested for drugs. Yet six or seven still test positive for marijuana. Incredible.

The Celtics are the Ray Charles of the NBA when it comes to drugs: They don't want to see a thing. Isn't it now hard to believe that the front office people, his coaches and his teammates could be around Reggie for all those years and not know he was using? And what would have happened if anyone in the organization had had the guts to confront him in the hospital, when doctors were trying to save his life and he was still in denial?

He probably would be alive tonight to walk to center court with his family and see his jersey retired. And that's not a lie.

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