MIAMI, FLA., DEC. 29 -- Although the University of Miami today asked the NCAA to reconsider the suspensions of linebacker George Mira Jr. and offensive lineman John O'Neill, the players suffered a setback when a Dade County Circuit Court judge ruled that the NCAA could not be forced to retest the athletes, who failed pre-Orange Bowl drug tests.
Miami Athletic Director Sam Jankovich said papers containing what attorneys for the players claim is new evidence was being forwarded to the NCAA drug procedure committee tonight. An NCAA conference call could be held as early as Wednesday morning to determine whether to rehear the cases of the two players, who were suspended Christmas Eve when their tests showed evidence of diuretics, prescription drugs banned by the NCAA because they can mask the presence in the body of steroids.
"We feel we owe it to the young men involved to submit it and let the NCAA decide if it is new evidence," Jankovich said.
However, one of the team of attorneys for Mira said the NCAA was expected to deny the petition, refusing to even reconsider the case. Since the appeal is the last administrative hope for both players of being reinstated for Friday's game, a denial would mean their only recourse is a court date on Thursday.
Mira, a senior, is Miami's leading career tackler. O'Neill, a junior, is one of the Hurricanes' best pass blockers.
In another development, O'Neill joined the legal case of Mira, who has asked for an injunction in Dade County Circuit Court to prevent the NCAA from suspending him for the Orange Bowl, challenging the drug testing procedures of collegiate athletics' governing body.
"I can tell you that we are not optimistic there will be a rehearing," said attorney Joe Kissane. "We are actively preparing our court case for the final hearing."
But the cases of Mira and O'Neill were hurt by judge Michael Salmon's ruling today that the NCAA does not have to retest the athletes. Mira's attorneys had claimed a new test would show he has not taken any anabolic steroids, commonly used by athletes for muscle development.
Mira and O'Neill underwent private testing today, to be used as evidence in court.
But even if the players win their legal battle, Jankovich has said Miami will not reinstate them unless the NCAA reverses its decision and says they can play. The school could suffer penalties from the NCAA if Mira and O'Neill participated, ranging from forfeiting a possible national championship to $2.5 million in bowl game receipts.
"Our stand in the legal matter is that we are part of the NCAA, we have voted for the present drug tetsing program, and we definitely approve of it," Jankovich said.
Mira's chief attorney, W. Sam Holland, has said that new evidence in Mira's case consists of testimony from manufacturers and pharmicologists that the diuretic Mira used, Lasix, cannot be used to mask steroid use. Also, they claim that the NCAA misspelled the banned substance contained in Lasix, furosemide, to read, "flurosemide." Mira also claims he used the diuretic on medical need basis because he has a problem with water retention.
Attorneys have also filed a motion to prevent the NCAA from penalizing Miami should Mira and O'Neill obtain the court injunction.