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.
Lawyers for four doctors being sued by 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.
Northeastern, Lewis' alma mater, is reluctant to turn over the results of the internal investigation. But it has agreed to a compromise that would provide the information with the proviso certain information be kept confidential.
"We felt it was our duty to abide by our pledge of confidentiality," Janet Hookailo, the spokeswoman, said Tuesday.
She said that the school promised privacy to people who spoke to the commission and that releasing the files would cripple the school's ability to conduct future confidential internal investigations.
Hookailo said defense attorneys have rejected Northeastern's compromise. Lawyers for the doctors could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Hookailo said that the university has already handed over hundreds of pages of documents, including Lewis' medical records, to lawyers on both sides of the case.
Lewis was 27 when he died in the Celtics practice gym at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., 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 Boston 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 to the Herald 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 tat Lewis did not test positive.
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