The National Football League is reviewing allegations made by a former federal undercover agent, who said that five members of the Dallas Cowboys shaved points in games played "in the early 1980s" in exchange for cocaine.
The allegations were initially made in a 1982 report by Daniel Anthony Mitrione Jr., then a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation based in Miami, the Miami News reported yesterday.
No players were named in the three-year-old report and it is unclear which games allegedly were affected.
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle said the NFL is reviewing the matter. However, he and President Tex Schramm of the Cowboys expressed skepticism over the credibility of Mitrione, who in March 1985 pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, conspiracy and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
"When you consider the source," Schramm said, "I think it's a pretty flimsy base to make these allegations . . . I'm looking at a 72-point bold-face headline (in the Miami News) and then I find out that a guy going to jail is the source.
"When you make a blanket statement like that, it affects everybody on the football team. It's unfair to be put in that position with so little foundation (for the allegations).
"Nobody believes this stuff. The FBI doesn't. Nobody does."
Rozelle said, "I think people realize in many cases that stories such as these develop without basis of fact."
Meanwhile, the FBI has begun an internal investigation to discover why the allegations were not acted upon immediately.
Mitrione told the News that he was part of an investigation called "Operation Airlift," a Fort Lauderdale-based drug sting. In a report sent to the FBI in Dallas in February 1983, he wrote that two Dallas-area men had told him they had supplied cocaine to players on the Cowboys in exchange for shaving points.
Jim Siano, a supervisory FBI agent in Dallas, told the News that the report was then sent to Thomas Kelly, who was then the agent in charge of the FBI office in Dallas.
Kelly is currently the acting deputy director of the Drug Enforcement Agency and is awaiting Senate confirmation.
The News quoted Kelly as saying that he will volunteer to take a polygraph test about the matter "so that my name can be cleared from this whole thing."
Kelly said he was not told of the report or of the alleged involvement of an NFL team, but agreed that the information was too sketchy to act upon, the News wrote. Kelly declined to comment yesterday.
Siano, who referred any comment yesterday to the FBI's public affairs office, told the News, "I'm the one who handled the report and I'm the one who decided what to do with it.
"Nothing was done here because nothing should have been done. If we had good information, we would pursue it. Just because they are the Dallas Cowboys means nothing. I've got information on judges and senators and I don't go running to the special agent in charge with every little thing."
Oliver Revell, an executive assistant director of the FBI, said yesterday that the internal investigation wil be handled "on my behalf" by the FBI office of professional responsbility and the criminal investigation division.
"Our focus will be to determine precisely what information was received, whether the assessment of it was valid and whether it was handled properly," he said.
Meanwhile, the NFL issued a three-sentence official statement that read: "We learned of these allegations about a week ago. We are in the process of reviewing this as we routinely do with reports or rumors of this type.
"However, as we understand it, the primary source of these 1982 charges is a former FBI agent guilty of drug-trafficking charges."