Muhammad Ali said Tuesday he was taking a double...


LOS ANGELES -- Muhammad Ali said Tuesday he was taking a double dose of a thyroid drug in the weeks preceding his fight against champion Larry Holmes and the drug caused him to lose the World Boxing Council heavyweight championship match.

Ali, who received a clean bill of health from doctors after two days of tests at UCLA Medical Center, told a news conference he began taking the drug Thyrolar several weeks before the Oct. 2 fight and the pills first made him 'quicker and stonger with my old great reflexes.'


Ali, 38, said he then decided on his own to double the daily dosage, from the 3 grains prescribed by Dr. Charles Williams of Chicago to six grains daily. He said he later began feeling slow and weak but never considered that it was due to the extra dose of drug.


'I came to the hospital because I suspected there was something wrong with me,' Ali said. 'The more I thought about the pills, the more I figured they had something to do with it.

'I'm not sure if I'll fight again, but if I think I can't fight because of my age, I'll admit it. But if the pills did it to me, then I want to fight again and right now I feel sure that the pills caused the problem.'

Williams confirmed in a telephone interview he had prescribed the medication to Ali and the treatment may have contributed to his sluggish performance.

'A month before the fight I started thinking something was wrong,' Ali said. 'Two weeks before the fight I started getting more tired but I thought it was because I was nearing the peak of my conditioning. That often happens when you're getting to the peak of your conditioning.'

Ali, who failed to answer the bell for the 11th round after a humiliating 10 rounds against Holmes, said it was the drug and not his age that resulted in his lackluster performance.

'I didn't throw 10 good punches in the whole fight,' Ali said. 'Usually I throw 50 punches in one round. It wasn't my age, if I was 50 I would have put up a better fight than that.'


Ali said he dropped his weight from 265 pounds to just 217 ? pounds over a 5-month span before the championship fight.

'I may have placed him in jeopardy inadvertently in an attempt to correct a condition I felt had existed for some time _ hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid),' said Williams, who explained that the drug speeds up metabolism and interferes with the natural ability of the body to cool itself.

'He was suppossed to drink a lot more water with it but he was obsessed with getting his weight down and felt water would prevent that.'

'It was 100 degrees before the fight and somewhere around 80 during it,' Ali said. 'And after 10 rounds, I hadn't seated a single drop. There was absolutely no sweat coming out of me.'

'In my opinion, Ali suffered from heat exhaustion due to the weight loss, dehydration, the 100-degree heat and the medication,' said Williams, who has been Ali's doctor since 1973. 'When he was 225, I wanted him to stop losing and start building himself up. But he just kept losing and at one point hit 216. His whole system was off but he kept telling me he felt fine. I knew he wasn't alright and the whole entourage wanted him to lose more weight. I also gave him vitamins and salt tablets.


'I first treated him for the condition before the first Spinks fight (February, 1978). His weight went up abnormally and he was always tired. That's when I first gave him the medication.'

Thyroxine _ specifically Thyrolar _ has many side effects, including increase in appetite, weight loss, sensitivity to heat, fatigue and weakness, bulging of the eyeballs, personality changes and it can affect blood pressure.

Dr. Dennis Cope, an internal medicine specialist at UCLA, appeared with the former champion during the news conference, telling reporters Ali was in 'excellent health generally' and there was no sign of any 'residual damage' from the fight against Holmes.

Cope said there was 'no question' the double dosage would have made the fighter's heart beat more rapidly and cause a tremendous waste of energy.

'If he hadn't doubled the dosage,' Cope said, 'I believe he wouldn't have had those effects. There is absolutely no sign of any kidney damage and a brain scan was absolutely negative.'

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