MIAMI, DEC. 28 -- University of Miami linebacker George Mira Jr. today awaited word on whether the NCAA will reconsider his suspension from the Orange Bowl national championship game against Oklahoma, and said that in the meantime he will participate in workouts with the Hurricanes.
Mira, the Hurricanes' leading tackler, was suspended on Christmas Eve when a drug test showed he had used a diuretic that is on the list of substances banned by the NCAA. Diuretics are banned because they are commonly used to mask the effects of steroids.
But today Mira and his attorney, W. Sam Holland, said Miami would informally appeal to the NCAA eligibility committee to rehear his case and have him retested, but he did not expect a response from the school until Tuesday.
NCAA assistant executive director, David Cawood, said today any appeals would actually have to be made to the committee on drug procedures.
"His attorneys have requested that we make a new appeal based on new evidence. We'll be happy to file that appeal once we get that new evidence," Miami Athletic Director Sam Jankovich said in a statement, leaving it unclear when Miami would take action.
Holland said he asked the school to make an administrative appeal to the NCAA in hopes of avoiding further litigation. Mira is also seeking an injunction in Dade County Circuit Court to prevent the NCAA from suspending him. His case is scheduled to be heard Thursday.
In the meantime, Mira participated in a team photo session at the Orange Bowl, where Miami and Oklahoma, both unbeaten, will meet to decide the national championship on New Year's night.
Saturday, a judge ruled that Mira could practice with the Hurricanes if Coach Jimmy Johnson agreed, but Johnson said he did not want Mira on the field because of possible distractions. Today Mira said he had gotten permission from Johnson to discreetly take part in limited drills.
"You've got to be optimistic," Mira said from Holland's office, issuing his first public comments since he was suspended. "You can't think the worst. I thought about it, but I don't think it's going to distract or hurt the team. Worse things have happened to other teams, and to ours."
Johnson said he would only allow Mira to play if the NCAA ruled he was eligible. School officials have said they could lose their bowl money or face other NCAA sanctions if they allow Mira to play even if he receives a court injunction, and Holland said he was filing a motion that would prevent such action by the NCAA.
Johnson said he was unaware of any NCAA appeal by Miami, and did not acknowledge Mira would participate in practice.
"I have not heard anything and until the NCAA tells me something, I don't anticipate him playing," Johnson said.
Holland said the appeal to the NCAA eligibility committee would be based on what he claims is new evidence showing the diuretic Mira took, Lasix, cannot be used to mask steroids in the system.
He also said Mira did not receive adequate notice of what drugs are on the banned list, and said that the element contained in Lasix that is banned, furosemide, was misspelled in NCAA literature as "flurosemide."
Holland also said Miami had asked the NCAA to allow Mira to be retested to show that his body contains no traces of steroid use. The Hurricanes' 22 starters plus 12 other players are scheduled to be tested again by the NCAA Tuesday morning, and Mira planned to stay at the team hotel tonight and hoped to be retested with them. Holland said that if the administrative appeal fails, the test could be used as evidence in court.
"They're not going to find anything this time, and the only thing they found before was Lasix," Holland said. "We would want to show in the trial that no chemical substance is in his system."
Mira has said he took the diuretic on a limited basis under the guidance of a registered nurse because of a water retention problem. He was advised by Holland not to comment further.
Offensive tackle John O'Neill, also suspended for failing a drug test, has said he will not take legal action, pending the outcome of Mira's case.
Last year Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth was suspended from the Orange Bowl against Arkansas for using steroids. The case of Mira is receiving as much attention in this area, where he is widely known as the son of former all-America quarterback George Mira Sr.
The elder Mira remains something of a cult hero here. That Mira's case has become a local cause is indicated by the presence of former state attorney general Robert Shevin on the team of attorneys.
"It's been a nightmare," George Mira Sr. said. "Hopefully it can all be resolved. We've gotten a lot of support in this town."
The younger Mira said he had spent the past few days trying to stay in shape and talking with his lawyers. But mainly he has grappled with the possibility of missing the last and most important game of his career. The senior is Miami's all-time leading career tackler, with 490, and considered a key player if the No. 2 Hurricanes are to defeat the No. 1 Sooners.
"It's been a little like cramming for a final exam, because I'm exhausted," he said.
"I'm on the phone with my attorneys, I'm thinking, I'm reviewing things in my mind, going over what happened. That's how the days have gone."
Mira said he bore Miami no ill will for saying it would not allow him to play unless he was cleared by the NCAA. His replacement is sophomore Bernard Clark, who had a game-high 19 tackles in his only start of the season, replacing Mira against Eastern Carolina.
Mira also said Johnson had told him he wanted him to participate in the game. But he said that even if he regains his eligibility, he probably could not start.
Mira plans to be on the sidelines regardless of the outcome of his appeals.
"I've got to be there," he said. "I can't walk out on them just because of what happened to me. If I can explain something or help with blocking schemes, whatever. I'll be there."