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CELTICS SET TO HONOR LEWIS AMID STORIES OF COCAINE USE
Published March 22, 1995
The Celtics will go ahead with their planned ceremony to honor Reggie Lewis by retiring his No. 35, despite more stories in recent days alleging cocaine use by the late Celtics captain. Celtics GM M.L. Carr, who said the team never considered delaying the ceremony, "chose to focus his thoughts on the work Lewis did in the community and the leadership he gave the team as captain in 1992-93." During the halftime ceremony, Carr, Larry Bird, Celtics President Red Auerbach, NBA Commissioner David Stern and Dee Brown will speak along with Lewis' widow, Donna Harris-Lewis (Michael Holley, BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22). Attending a telethon for the Reggie Lewis Foundation last night, Bird said of his former teammate: "He played very hard, and he worked very hard. This other stuff I've heard about him, I just don't believe" (Michael Holley, BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22). AND NOW, THE BAD NEWS: Yesterday, the GLOBE and the BOSTON HERALD both had front-page stories on Lewis' alleged cocaine use. The GLOBE piece cited friend and former college teammate Derrick Lewis (no relation), who confirmed what he had previously told the WALL STREET JOURNAL about Lewis' "social use" of cocaine. Derrick Lewis added that he, Reggie Lewis, Len Bias and an unidentified fourth person used cocaine together during basketball camp in 1985. Derrick Lewis also said that he and Lewis did cocaine in 1993, less than a week before Reggie Lewis collapsed in a playoff game (Jackie MacMullan, BOSTON GLOBE, 3/21). The HERALD cited a "self-professed former drug dealer" who said he sold cocaine to Lewis on two occassions in the summer of 1988 (Flynn & Buckley, BOSTON HERALD, 3/21). TODAY'S HEADLINES: Today's HERALD has two more front-page stories. One cites a "medical source close to his case" who said that Lewis "was a regular, heavy user of cocaine -- and continued to use it even after collapsing during his final NBA game. Lewis admitted to at least one of his doctors that he used cocaine prior to every home game as a 'performance enhancer.'" According to the source, Lewis "would not -- or could not --stop, even after he was warned following the collapse that continued use would kill him." Celtics Exec VP Jan Volk: "This is an incredibly bold statement to be made under the claok of an unnamed source and an obvious violation of medical ethics. I have absolutely no knowledge of the conduct suggested" (Michael Lasalandra, BOSTON HERALD, 3/22). The other piece alleges that cocaine use "was common" among the Celtics during the 1980s. The article cites "Laura," a Boston woman who regularly partied with the teame, and includes confirmation from Robert Long, a former member of the State Police Narcotics Unit. Long said alleged use among the Celtics and other Boston-area athletes was "common knowledge," but never probed because the violations never went beyond recreational use (Ralph Ranalli, BOSTON HERALD, 3/22). BACKING OFF HIS STORY: Last night, ESPN's Keith Olbermann said that Derrick Lewis had called ESPN Tuesday night and "said he never saw Reggie Lewis or Len Bias use cocaine" ("SportsCenter," 3/21). The GLOBE stands by its story, and reports that Derrick Lewis called MacMullan and told her: "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but I just can't take the heat. Everybody down here is saying that I'm the guy that sold out my buddy, so I'm taking it all back" MacMullan says she has the original 2 1/2 hour interview with Derrick Lewis is on tape (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22). Donna Harris-Lewis responded to Derrick Lewis' original statement: "Consider the source. What is Derrick Lewis doing? Where is he in his life? He's desperate! ... I hold firm: My husband was not a user, and he did not do cocaine" (WCVB-TV, 3/20). DRUG POLICY UNDER FIRE: In his column this morning, Will McDonough writes, "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 their whole career. ... When it comes to drugs, the Celtics 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?" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22).