The allegations that five Dallas Cowboys shaved points in the early 1980s in exchange for cocaine came from "a couple of would-be drug dealers boasting or bragging about things they may or may not have known," according to the attorney for the former FBI agent whose report detailed the charges.
The five present and former Cowboys mentioned in the claims were quarterback Danny White, running backs Tony Dorsett and Ron Springs and wide receivers Butch Johnson and Tony Hill, the Dallas Times Herald reported. All five issued statements yesterday denying their involvement.
Daniel H. Forman, attorney for former FBI undercover agent Daniel Anthony Mitrione Jr., said Mitrione did not mention the names of any players in the December 1982 report that he sent to the FBI office in Dallas. "I don't know where the names came from," Forman said.
The FBI now is conducting an internal investigation to find out why the allegations were not acted upon immediately, and the NFL is reviewing the case. Warren Welsh, the league's director of security, has been in Dallas this week and has spoken with the FBI, as well as Dallas team officials.
Forman said that Mitrione's report about the Cowboys became public knowledge only because Mitrione is a witness in a drug trial in Pittsburgh in which one of his former informers in Miami, Hilmer Burdette Sandini, is facing drug-related charges.
"If Mitrione gave 85 pages worth of statements (about Sandini), there may have been one sentence" concerning the Cowboys, Forman said.
Mitrione pleaded guilty in March to charges of bribery, conspiracy and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and, after plea-bargaining, faces up to 45 years in prison, Forman said. Mitrione is in federal custody.
"(Mitrione) was working in an undercover case and, when you are engaged in that type of activity, you hear all types of things," Forman said. "Especially when you're in a drug underworld, people who don't know you're an undercover agent would present themselves in the most desirable light. In this strange world, that means to say big things -- that he's given cocaine to this big shot or that guy.
"The proper thing for an undercover agent to do is to pass along this information," Forman said. "I can guarantee you that if there was anything to this information, an FBI agent who picked up on it in Dallas could have made his name on it. No, he could have made his career on it; he'd be a big shot by now.
"I think (Mitrione's report) was unsubstantiated. It probably just lay dormant as intelligence information and I think justifiably so. I don't think any law enforcement agency would have done differently," Forman added.
The following statements were issued yesterday by the players named:
White: "Anybody that knows me knows how ludicrous the allegations are. I've never touched anything stronger than a Shirley Temple. The sad thing is that some people are going to read (the) story and believe it because when it's found out how false it all is, the press won't write about that."
Hill: "It's bizarre. If you read the story (originally reported by the Miami News), you realize how crazy it is. There's no basis to it."
Dorsett: "The day I'm looking forward to is the day something bad happens in Dallas and I'm not associated with it. Would you please write a story about that."
Springs, now with Tampa Bay, said through a team spokesman: "I don't know what they're talking about."
Johnson, now with Denver, said at a news conference: "I didn't know anything about this until Coach (Dan) Reeves told me. I'm really innocent of anything that has been said.
"I'm completely stunned. I've never come close to doing anything like that. I don't know anything more about it than you do, and I don't know any of the people involved. I've never been interviewed by the FBI, and I don't even gamble in blackjack."
Mitrione had told the Miami 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.