For the record it should be understood that all of the nation's major professional sports leagues -- football, baseball, basketball and hockey -- are unequivocal in their prohibitions on the use of so-called "recreational" but illegal drugs by their athletes.

"If you use drugs, you forfeit your privilege to be a participant in the National Hockey League," is the way NHL President John Ziegler puts it.

For the record, it should also be understood that professional athletes live in a society where such drugs -- marijuana, hashish and cocaine -- are available with a minimum of difficulty and where their use is condoned by many subcultures. Short of 24-hour surveillance, there is little the leagues can do to ensure the enforcement of their prohibitions, officials say.

"It is obvious that professional athletes are not immune from the same temptations that have unfortunately caused drug usage to increase in society generally," said Lawrence J. O'Brien, National Basketball Association commissioner.

Twice within the last two weeks, recreational use of drugs by professional sports figures has come to public attention. Veteran pitcher Ferguson Jenkins of the Texas Rangers was arrested in Toronto and charged with possession of cocaine, marijuana and hashish. Eddie Chiles, board chairman of the Rangers, said the team is investigating to determine whether Jenkins' arrest reflects a larger use of illegal drugs on the team.

On Aug. 20 the Los Angeles Times estimated that between 40 and 75 percent of the players in the National Basketball Association used cocaine.

"There is not a team in the league you can confidently say does not have a drug problem," the story quoted Frank Layden, general manager of the Utah Jazz.

"I have no idea what the percentage is, but I know that 75 percent is ludicrous," said Larry Fleisher, head of the NBA Players Association. "But the use of recreational drugs is, nevertheless, a serious problem."

A matter of increasing concern in professional sports circles over the last decade, the use of drugs by professional athletes has been troublesome to various leaque officials who seek to project a clean-cut image for their sport.

This is particularly evident in the NBA.

"We have only 260 players in the league, so if a story comes out that says 70 percent of them are using drugs, our image is severely tarnished and that can hurt us," Fleisher said.

"We have to think about television ratings, ticket prices and all sorts of ramifications. If the general public thinks more than half of our players are using cocaine and marijuana, we aren't going to be accepted.

"The unfortunate thing about all of this recent publicity is that it is focusing in on a group, and this is a problem that exists worldwide," said Fleisher.

"The age and income of basketball players puts them in a group that is more likely to use drugs. The fact that they are basketball players is just a coincidence, not the reason for it."

"We do not want our players violating the law," said Art Fuss, assistant director of security in Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn's office.

Since 1969, said Fuss, baseball has had a drug education program that spells out the dangers of recreational drug use and the use of such substances as amphetamines intended to improve performance on the field.

The program is updated each year, but the bottom line is that baseball players are not permitted "use or possession of any substance which is in violation of the law of whatever state they happen to be in."

It is also true, concedes Fuss, that baseball's antidrug campaign relies more on persuasion than enforcement.

"About the best thing we can do is keep telling the players the truth about narcotics and drugs and the effect they can have on you," he said.

"But we really have to depend on a player's common sense to stay away from violations of the law. I think a player has the right of some privacy once he leaves the clubhouse."

Like athletes in other sports, observed Fuss, many baseball players have attained celebrity status and cocaine is widely reputed of some privacy once he leaves the clubhouse."

Like athletes in other sports, observed Fuss, many baseball players have attained celebrity status and cocaine is widely reputed to be the "in" drug among celebrities.

"I have no doubt about the fact that our players are exposed to it. I am only hopeful that they don't indulge," he said.

Marvin Miller, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said, "I just don't think it's a serious problem in major league baseball. And I am basing that opinion on my association with players and on talking with them."

However, injured Cleveland Indian first baseman Andre Thornton says drugs are used on every team in major league baseball.

"Some teams have major problems. Others just have two or three players. But a drug culture exists in baseball," Thornton said in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer published yesterday.

Thornton, out for the season with a knee injury, was also highly critical of a charge from an unnamed baseball executive that teams with a high proportion of black and Latin players are more likely to have serious drug problems.

"For an executive to say that blacks are more likely to use drugs and not back up that statement with documentation is irresponsible," said Thornton. "As a black ballplayer, it insults me greatly. [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] nationalities. Black players use it. So do whites and every other race."

In basketball, increased concern over drug use prompted the NBA to set up a special drug prevention and education committee after its June meeting this year.

Charged with reviewing the problem and coming up with whatever solutions were necessary, the committee consists of Chairman Mike Burke, president of the New York Knicks; Charles Theokas, general manager of the New Jersey Nets; coaches Donnie Walsh of Denver and Paul Silas of San Diego; trainer Joe O'Toole of Atlanta, Howard Ellfeldt, team doctor for the Kansas City Kings and Dr. Torrey Brown of Johns Hopkins University, medical consultant to the NBA.

"Any player proved having engaged in the use or sale of illegal drugs will forfeit his right to play in the NBA," said Commissioner O'Brien. "But we don't and won't act on hearsay and whim. Nothing will be done unless charges are proved. The drug situation will continue to be monitored very closely."

"We'll look at each case individually," added Fleisher, "but we've taken a different stance than we have in the past. We've become very militant in our veiw now because it could be a matter of survival. We'll be less prone to help a player convicted of a drug offense."

Estimates vary widely on the degree of recreational drug use among athletes.

"It's a problem in society and we're a mirror of society," said Pete Rozelle, commissioner of the NFL. "so we do have a problem, but it's not a major problem.

"We have a drug and alcohol abuse expert on retainer and we do quite a bit of counseling with our players," said Rozelle. "We've taken action against players using drugs in the past, and if we have suspicions about certain players that information is passed on to our security people.

"I think most of our players realize that football is so demanding physically that when you talk about using drugs, you're talking about career shorteners, and that, in itself, keeps a lot of players away."

Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said, "We publicly deter the use of drugs and we talk about it quite a bit, but I don't think recreational use of drugs is a problem in football."

Garvey added that the "owners and the commissioner are too quick to condemn the players for anything. There is such a double standard. The security forces are always examining what the players are up to but not the owners."

In hockey, both Ziegler and Alan Eagleson, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association, said they thought the drug problem is minimal.

"The fact that we haven't had charges brought suggests to me that if there is use by a player or players, it must be at a minimum level," said Ziegler.

Two years ago, right wing Don Murdoch of the New York Rangers received a 40-game suspension following a guilty plea to possession of cocaine, but there have been no drug convictions of NHL players since, Ziegler said. b

Drug use is probably less in hockey, said Eagleson, "because access to these drugs is a little more restricted in Canada and a third of our teams are in Canada.

"There may well be some incidence of it," Eagleson said, "but we seem to be relatively clear of that problem."