The agent for New Jersey Nets guard Micheal Ray Richardson, who was banned from the National Basketball Association Tuesday for his third violation of the league's drug regulations, said yesterday the eight-year veteran has admitted he used cocaine and will not contest his suspension.
"After hours of spending time and talking with him, he admitted his drug use," Charles Grantham told the Associated Press. "Therefore, we will not contest the validity of the NBA's action. That seals it."
According to NBA sources, Richardson was again tested for drugs yesterday, once again with positive results. Grantham, who also serves as the executive vice president of the NBA Players Association, had proposed a second test shortly after NBA Commissioner David Stern announced Tuesday that the four-time all-star had been found to have traces of cocaine in his system after being tested last Thursday.
Under the terms of the NBA's anti-drug policy, Richardson's dismissal is considered a lifetime ban, but he can apply for reinstatement after two years. In the aftermath of Richardson's expulsion, the players association will attempt to incorporate a better after-care program into the present collective bargaining agreement with the NBA.
According to Junior Bridgeman, a Los Angeles Clippers guard and president of the NBAPA, one of the measures under consideration includes provisions that would require any player previously entered in a rehabilitation program to meet with a doctor or doctors in each NBA city to which the team traveled. During the offseason, the player would be required to attend regular counseling sessions in his home city, perhaps as often as three times a week.
"Any time you have the same guys going back (into drugs), you have to ask yourself why or how it happens and how can it be stopped," said Bridgeman. "We would like the program to get to that point, where players would have to see someone in every city. There are some who look upon that as being like a 'Big Brother' looking over their shoulder, but depending on the person involved, that may be necessary."
After a 16-day stay, Richardson had been released Jan. 16 from a Van Nuys, Calif., drug treatment center, his second official attempt at rehabilitation. On Feb. 11, he was suspended for a game by the Nets for failing to show up for a doctor's appointment to receive treatment for the flu. A short time later, a test for drugs was performed, but the results were negative.
Bridgeman was distressed that the latest test showed positive. "It's unfortunate that a guy has to step away from a career and at the height of that career," he said. "But when we put the penalties in, we realized that at some point in time we would have to enforce them. I guess that time is now."
The league and the players association had come under fire recently about the program, hearing charges that the agreement "lacked teeth" and was too lenient regarding offenders. According to Boston Celtics General Manager Jan Volk, Richardson's expulsion wasn't necessary to disprove that contention.
"If you have the death penalty as a deterrent to serious crimes and while there are no executions, there is a reduction in the number of offenses, can you say that the deterrent doesn't work?" he asked.
Volk, an attorney, said Richardson might have had grounds for an appeal if he could have proved he was released from the rehabilitation center before he was ready. But according to NBA public relations director Brian McIntyre, the league will allow a player to return to his team only after permission to leave has been granted by the rehabilitation center itself.
"First of all, a player can really leave any time he wants; he can't be forced to stay there," said McIntyre. "However, if he chooses to leave and asks to rejoin his team, the permission wouldn't be granted until the center said he had satisfactorily completed their program." Richardson is being placed in another rehabilitation program, with all fees being paid for by the Nets. In addition, sources say, the league is arranging to have the deferred portion of Richardson's four-year, $3.4 million contract -- estimated at some $200,000 -- moved up so that he won't be totally without funds.
"Just because Micheal has stopped playing for the Nets doesn't mean we have to stop caring for him as a person," said Lewis Schaffel, the Nets' general manager.