The drug issue swirls, now into two hours of meetings of Los Angeles Dodgers players, owner Peter O'Malley and Don Newcombe, Dodgers' community relations director, with Big Newk saying an interviewer overly accentuated the negative in quoting him, "On the Dodgers alone, there is a serious problem . . . a very serious problem."

Newcombe told a Santa Monica Outlook interviewer: "I would say between 70 and 80 percent of professional baseball players are using some kind of mind-altering substance right now . . ." And when they got to the Dodger part, angry denials rose from Manager Tom Lasorda and several players.

The team physician, Robert Woods, ventured that the former star pitcher and conqueror of alcoholism "is laying it on a little heavy. If there were any heavy users, they couldn't function as well as they do.

"He looks on drinking with a great deal of horror. The kids like their beer, and if you took it away, there probably would be a rebellion."

Well, darn right, said Newcombe (due to pitch in RFK July 19), "the big problem in this country is with alcohol, and a story like this has to make it known that when you speak of drugs, you also speak of alcohol. But I don't know of any person on this club that has a problem with drugs simply because I'm not around enough to know."

Okay, said Rick Monday. "The players just wanted to know his side of the story" . . .

David Thompson, Seattle's media opportunity in lieu of the NBA pick traded for him: "I'm denying I ever had a problem with cocaine." And, "That wasn't a true statement made about my wife and she was very upset about it (Denver newspaper report that she sicced police on a cocaine supplier) . . . But I'm planning on disproving all the negative things" . . .

In New Orleans, federal trial of Mike Strachan, ex-Saint accused of peddling cocaine to teammates, postponed to Aug. 30. That could affect the NFL team's preseason, should current players be called to testify. Meantime, Bum Phillips says past sins shouldn't hurt '82 Saints: "It's like a dog. Once burned, he'll stay away from the fire."

IMPS ZAP ISLES. We can see the N.Y. tabloid headlines; the NHL team moving from Colorado to Meadowlands has taken the name New Jersey Devils. With ratification by N.J. Sports and Exposition Authority of a 30-year agreement with the club, a devilishly nice development: appointment of Max McNab, one of hockey's finest gentlemen, before and after the Capitals relieved him as general manager last season, to serve as Devils' v.p. and director of operations . . .

Fourth United States Football League coach/g.m. named, fourth former NFL head coach: the coming spring-summer game's latest, John Ralston with San Francisco Bay franchise . . . Loose end: Ricky Thompson, four-year Redskin flanker, released. Hit his top production last season, 28 catches for 423 yards, four touchdowns, but this favorite of the Jack Pardee regime lost favor--and eventually starting status--with Joe Gibbs & Co. . . .

Sugar Ray Leonard to head of class again: visits Buffalo today to thank the city for its hospitality during his ill-fated training for the May 11 date with Roger Stafford that gave way to Leonard's eye surgery; photo opportunity on City Hall steps . . . Who needs ERA? Boxing debut on July 16 card at Hyatt Regency, Capitol Hill, set for former Maryland and UDC basketballer Doreen Lefeged; vs. Glenda Buckley . . . Be a basketball referee: school for same (all ages) at George Mason U., July 5-10, directed by the gent who practically invented officiating, J. Dallas Shirley.

Villanova, a year since dropping football, stirs hopes of Wildcat faithful: will send A.D. Ted Aceto to a meeting next week in Baltimore of I-AA schools Delaware, Lehigh, Lafayette, William and Mary, VMI, James Madison and I-A Richmond talking new league.