Originally created 12/30/98

Lawyers seeking possible report on Lewis' drug use



BOSTON -- Since Reggie Lewis collapsed and died on a practice court in 1993, there have been rumors that the Boston Celtics star's death was fueled by cocaine use.

Now Northeastern University, Lewis' alma mater, has agreed to turn over to his former doctors results of an internal investigation that might show whether the 27-year-old tested positive for the drug in 1987.

The Boston Herald reported Tuesday that lawyers for four doctors being sued by the Lewis' widow, Donna Harris-Lewis, have asked Northeastern for the documents collected by a Blue Ribbon Commission on Athletics that investigated allegations of drug use by players.

The doctors said that if Lewis had used cocaine, it might have contributed to his heart attack, and that they would have treated him differently.

Lewis died in the Celtics practice gym at Brandeis University in Waltham on July 27, 1993.

He had previously collapsed during a game, and a team of New England Baptist Hospital doctors said he had a life-threatening heart ailment and warned that his career was in jeopardy.

Lewis transferred to Brigham and Women's Hospital, where another team, this one led by Dr. Gilbert Mudge, diagnosed him with a less-harmful neurological condition. Mudge said he was optimistic Lewis could play again.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 1995 that doctors at New England Baptist recommended Lewis be tested for cocaine. He refused.

Robert Harley, Harris-Lewis' lawyer, has denied the basketball star used drugs.

"We wish to try the case on the facts of Reggie Lewis' medical treatment," Harley told the Herald. "The defendants want to avoid facing their negligence, and to distract attention from the truth with lies and unfounded rumors."

Mudge's lawyer declined to comment on the case.

According to depositions, Lewis and his teammate Andre LeFleur first delayed taking a school-administered drug test. Two depositions said the two failed the test when they took it the next day. The following day they were tested again, and finally passed.

Then-Northeastern team doctor, Dr. Job Fuchs initially had told lawyers involved with the lawsuit that Lewis and LaFleur both tested positive in 1987. But after listening to the tape he made in his 1995 testimony before the Northeastern Commission, Fuchs said he reported that Lewis did not test positive.

Northeastern agreed to give the lawyers the documents on condition they remain confidential. Harley has asked that a judge order the documents be sealed until the case goes to trial.