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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Donaghy says refs fixed playoffs; Stern says no

The Tim Donaghy scandal just got more serious.
The disgraced former NBA referee told authorities in a four-page letter released Tuesday that two officials conspired to fix the outcome of a 2002 playoff series and influenced several other post- and regular-season games.

The fix is in?

Tim Donaghy did not mention which series in 2002 was fixed, but the Lakers-Kings Western Conference finals was the only series that fits his allegations. A statistical look at Game 6:
Stat
Lakers
Kings
Halftime score
51
56
Final score
106
102
Free throws
34-40
18-25
4th Qtr. FTs
21-27
7-9
Fouled out
None
Divac, Pollard
Fouls
24
31
Game 6 officials: Dick Bavetta, Ted Bernhardt, Bob Delaney

Court documents filed by Donaghy's lawyer detailed the "inner-workings" of a plot in which top league executives used referees to manipulate the games. Donaghy claims two referees were "company men" whose job was to extend a playoff series in 2002 to a seventh game.

NBA commissioner David Stern flatly denied the allegations Tuesday, dismissing Donaghy's accusations as a desperate attempt to ease his sentence.

"My reaction ... is that clearly as the date of sentencing gets closer and the things (Donaghy's) thrown against the wall haven't stuck, he's rehashing a variety of things that have been given to the FBI, have been investigated and are baseless," Stern told reporters.

"He's a singing, cooperating witness trying to get as light a sentence as he can."

The documents did not name the series in question, but the Lakers-Kings Western Conference finals was the only series in 2002 that went to a seventh game, with the Lakers winning both Game 6 and 7 to reach the NBA Finals.

"Personal fouls (resulting in obviously injured players) were ignored even when they occurred in full view of the referees," the document says of the unnamed series. "Conversely, the referees called made-up fouls on Team 5 in order to give additional free throw opportunities to Team 6."

Two players from Team 5 fouled out in the game, the document said, and the "referees' favoring of Team 6 led to that team's victory that night." Team 6 also went on to win Game 7 of the series, according to the document.

The Lakers trailed the Kings three games to two in 2002 when Los Angeles rallied to win each of the final two games and eventually went on win the NBA championship. Key Kings big men Vlade Divac and Scot Pollard both fouled out in Game 6.

Shaquille O'Neal scored 41 points and pulled down 17 rebounds against the Kings in Game 6, and drew most of the fouls that sent Divac and Pollard out of the game.

"Our big guys get 20 fouls tonight and Shaq gets four? You tell me how the game went," Kings coach Rick Adelman said after the game, according to SportsTicker. "It's just the way it is. Obviously, they got the game called the way they wanted to get it called."

"I knew before the game I'd be out of it," Divac added. "(O'Neal) went out (on fouls) up there (in Sacramento). It had to be the same down here."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson, speaking with reporters before Tuesday's Game 3 of the NBA Finals, stressed the need to wait for proof before any judgments are made, but was not shy to offer a low opinion of the officiating in the 2002 series.

"Was that after the fifth game, after we had the game stolen away from us on a bad call?" he said, referring to a game-changing play by Kings guard Mike Bibby in the final moments.

The letter doesn't name anyone involved. Donaghy's attorney and prosecutors have declined to comment. The league said the scandal was limited to Donaghy and two co-defendants, both former high school classmates who also pleaded guilty to gambling charges.

"The NBA remains vigilant in protecting the integrity of our game and has fully cooperated with the government at every stage of its investigation," Richard Buchanan, NBA executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. "The only criminal activity uncovered is Mr. Donaghy's."

Larnell McMorris, a spokesman for the NBA referees union, said in a statement that Donaghy "has had honesty and credibility issues from the get-go."

Donaghy also claims that a 2005 playoff series was improperly influenced, saying that referees were instructed to call illegal screens more strictly on a particular player after an opposing owner called to complain after falling behind 2-0 in the series.

Though the document again does not name anyone specifically, Mark Cuban did complain to the league that year about the officiating after his Mavericks fell behind 2-0 in their series with Houston. Dallas went on to beat the Rockets in seven games.

Then-Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy claimed at the time that an official — who was not working the playoffs — informed him of the plan.

"I didn't think that really worked in the NBA, but in this case it has," Van Gundy told reporters after the fourth game of the series, according to USA Today. He was later fined $100,000, a record sum for a coach.

The document also described other alleged infractions, including league officials telling referees that they should withhold calling technical fouls on certain star players because doing so hurt ticket sales and television ratings."

Donaghy also said refs broke league rules by routinely fraternizing with players, coaches and team management and that the resulting inappropriate relationships may have influenced the outcomes of games. He claims one general manager in 2004 made a game-day phone call to referees to encourage them to call more personal fouls against an opponent.

Donaghy claims referees have accepted autographs, merchandise and meals from team representatives. He said one official used a team's facility to exercise and another played tennis with an NBA coach.

The veteran referee pleaded guilty last year to felony charges alleging he took cash payoffs from gamblers and bet on games. He faces up to 33 months in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original here

Father's little helper? Viagra may offer athetic edge

You'll never look at the phrase "performance-enhancing drugs" in quite the same way again.

The Daily News in New York reported Tuesday that Viagra has become a popular pick-me-up for athletes looking for an edge on the field and perhaps some frisky behavior off of it.

Citing a source familiar with the New York Yankees clubhouse, the paper said Roger Clemens stashed the diamond-shaped pills in a vitamin bottle in his locker, perhaps keeping the drug undercover to avoid the inevitable wisecracks.

But the veteran pitcher wasn't alone. He's among the numerous athletes who have turned Vitamin V and its over-the-counter substitutes into one of the hottest drugs in locker rooms. The drug is so widely used now that it has drawn the attention of anti-doping officials.

"All my athletes took it," BALCO founder Victor Conte said of an over-the-counter supplement he claimed mimicked Viagra. "It's bigger than creatine. It's the biggest product in nutritional supplements."

Among the off-label uses for Viagra, which first went on the market in 1998:

  • Building endurance, especially for athletes who compete at high altitudes, by delivering oxygen, nutrients and performance-enhancing drugs to muscles more efficiently.
  • Offsetting impotence, which can be a side-effect of testosterone injections.

    Viagra, officially intended to treat erectile dysfunction, is not banned by Major League Baseball or other sports, and the paper said Clemens would have violated no drug-testing rules by using it.

    The World Anti-Doping Agency is funding a study to see if Viagra can be used to cheat on the field. Researchers at three U.S. universities are trying to determine if Viagra, officially known as sildenafil citrate, aids training and improves performance.

    Last month at the Giro d'Italia, Italy's biggest cycling event, Andrea Moletta was suspended after police searched his father's car and found 82 Viagra pills and a syringe.

    In March, NFL draft prospect Heath Benedict of Florida was found dead at his home. A medical examiner's report said bottles labeled "L-Dex" and "L-Via" — interpreted to be anabolic steroids and liquid Viagra — were found near his body.

    If researchers conclude that Viagra enhances athletic performance, the World Anti-Doping Agency could add the prescription medication to the list of prohibited substances in Olympic sports.

    Don Catlin, founder of Anti-Doping Research in Southern California, has been raising questions about Viagra's use in sports for years.

    "It's a complicated drug," he said. "If you go through the basic pharmacology and stretch your imagination, you could end up saying, 'Yeah, maybe it could be useful for athletes who are competing in endurance sports at high altitude.'"

    Catlin said he e-mailed then-WADA chairman Dick Pound several years ago to point out that Viagra might be a doping agent, but the message bounced back because the spam filter on Pound's computer would not let the e-mail through.

  • Original here