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Suspended Miami players George Mira Jr. and John O'Neill...

By
BOB KEIM, UPI Sports Writer

MIAMI -- Suspended Miami players George Mira Jr. and John O'Neill will return to circuit court Friday in their final hope of gaining reinstatement to the Hurricanes for the Orange Bowl New Year's Night.

Thursday, the NCAA denied a request to reverse the suspension and allow Mira and O'Neill of the second-ranked Hurricanes to play against No. 1 Oklahoma for the national championship.

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The two sought an injunction against the NCAA suspension in circuit court, but Dade County Circuit Judge Michael H. Salmon recessed their hearing at 9 p.m. EST after 12 hours of hearings. The hearing is scheduled to resume Friday at 9:30 a.m.

The two players also are requesting an injunction that would prohibit the NCAA from enforcing sanctions against the Miami football program if they play. The university has stated Mira and O'Neill will play only if Salmon orders they must.

Mira, a starting linebacker, and O'Neill, a starting offensive tackle, were suspended last week for failing an NCAA drug test on Dec. 11. Both players showed diuretics in their systems. Diuretics help rid the body of fluids and are believed to mask steroids, dangerous muscle-building agents.

The hearing before Salmon was interrupted for 90 minutes in the afternoon for a telephone call involving representatives of the players, the university and the 12-member NCAA executive committee. The committee called back a half-hour later to say the appeals were denied.

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'You've always got to have a glimmer of hope. That's all they're going on right now,' defense attorney Robert Shevin said. 'I think we have laid a strong record that should entitle us to some injunctive relief.'

Miami Athletic Director Sam Jankovich said the players tried to show they had a medical history of using diuretics and there was no connection to steroid use. The NCAA said the two players 'did not provide any convincing evidence that such a medical history existed.'

'Of course, I feel badly for the two young men,' Jankovich said. 'Of course, we would have loved to have them play in the Orange Bowl for the national championship.'

Jankovich said Mira and O'Neill will play only if the judge issues an order forcing the school to use them.

'The NCAA has made a ruling and we support that ruling,' he said.

University attorney Bill Dunaj said if the school uses a player later ruled ineligible, Miami would forfeit the game and more than $2 million in bowl revenues.

Dunaj told Salmon if an order were issued forcing the school to play Mira and O'Neill, the judge should require the players to post a $2 million bond to cover potential losses by the school.

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Mira obtained a temporary injunction last weekend allowing him to practice with the team but he has not done so. No. 2 Miami plays No. 1 Oklahoma Friday night in a game that will determine the national championship.

Mira's attorney, Sam Holland, argued in court Thursday that diuretics are not performance-enhancing and do not mask steroids. He also said Mira was denied due process under the NCAA bylaws and constitution and that the overall drug-testing program is unconstitutional.

Dr. Ted Struhle of Miami, the senior attending surgeon at Mt. Sinai Medical Center who has been involved with sports medicine for 30 years, testified that Lasix, the brand name of the diuretic taken by both players, would not help them.

Diuretics are prescribed to treat hypertension, high blood pressure and heart disease. It forces an increased flow of fluids from the body and also is used to treat water buildup.

'It does not enhance athletics in any way,' Struhle said. 'In fact, if anything, it makes a person weaker because of the water loss. (Also) It will not mask the presence of steroids in anyway whatsoever.'

Most of the morning was spent reading depositions from key figures who could not attend the hearing. One of the depositions was from a registered nurse who gave Mira the pills and advised him to take them when he felt bloated.

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Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson said Mira and O'Neill would have been relegated to backup roles even if the NCAA restored their eligibility.

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