Seven New England Patriots who admitted using drugs were tested by the team during the past year, but all tested drug-free during the week of the Super Bowl, team psychiatrist Dr. Armand Nicholi said yesterday in a statement released by the team.
Nicholi said test results during the year showed that two players tested positively for cocaine and marijuana and five players tested positively for marijuana. Two of those five players who tested positively for marijuana said they had taken the drug only once during the year and were not even occasional users of the drug, Nicholi said.
All seven players, who were not identified in the statement, had been drug-free for several weeks, or, in some cases, the entire season, he said.
Each player tested "absolutely free of any drug" for the Patriots' 46-10 loss to Chicago in Super Bowl XX, he said.
Nicholi said the Patriots' drug problem is "almost negligible," strongly disputing published reports in the Boston Globe that "a major drug abuse problem" existed on the team.
After being confronted with six names by the Globe earlier in the week, General Manager Patrick Sullivan said he would not deny the accuracy of the list. Irving Fryar, Tony Collins, Stephen Starring, Roland James, Raymond Clayborn and Kenneth Sims were named as those who allegedly have drug problems.
On Monday, the Patriots became the first National Football League team to vote for voluntary drug testing. But, when the names were revealed in the press, the deal was off, according to Mark Murphy, assistant to the executive director of the NFL Players Association, and Brian Holloway, the team's player representative.
The Patriots will not comment on the status of the plan until Holloway returns from the Pro Bowl in Honolulu and meets with Sullivan, said Jim Greenidge, director of publicity.
But Holloway has no doubt what will happen.
"It's officially off," he said last night when reached by phone. "It doesn't need to be discussed. I certainly have the authority to say this."
Nicholi said the success of the Patriots' drug testing to date "rests heavily on trust and strict confidentiality.
"We must therefore make unmistakably clear that neither the coach, nor the general manager, nor myself released the names of the individuals mentioned in the Globe . . . . The Globe will . . . confirm that we made every effort once we learned that they had names to convince the editor of the sports section that public exposure of individuals would accomplish nothing positive. Our general manager, however, did not deny involvement of the names mentioned when asked -- a passive acknowledgement he now regrets."
Nicholi, who said he was the only person in the Patriots organization to receive the results of the drug tests, said each player who was tested volunteered to enter the team's rehabilitation program, which included regular urine testing and individual private consultation with Nicholi.
"Depending on the individual case, we tested as frequently as three times a week," Nicholi said. "Testing continued up through the week of the Super Bowl."
Nicholi said the testing began when Coach Raymond Berry received information that presented "reasonable cause" to suspect a player of drug use. Berry never revealed his sources of information, Nicholi said.
Berry then confronted the player with his information. "If true, he gave them the opportunity to enter our program to obtain help," Nicholi said.
Each player who admitted using drugs entered the program, Nicholi added.
"The program thus far had been 100 percent successful," he said, adding that there would be "follow up" in the offseason "to guard against relapse."
Nicholi said these seven players "have been the strongest proponents of having a voluntary testing program for the whole team. Once free of the drug, these players experienced a dramatic increase in the level of their playing performance . . . ."
Holloway, who said he voted against the voluntary plan in the Monday team meeting because it violated the players' collective bargaining agreement, said team officials should have told the NFLPA about this season's testing.
"They are supposed to tell the union when they are testing players," Holloway said. "They stepped outside the boundaries of the collective bargaining agreement by doing it themselves. When I got wind of it late in the season, I was livid."
Greenidge said neither Berry nor Sullivan was available to comment.
"They're taking a vacation," Greenidge said.
Although he was angered when he found out about the testing, Holloway wouldn't say if he thought it was working.
"I reserve comment on that," he said, "although Raymond said it was working, and one thing I know about Raymond is he will always be very truthful."