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Referee Takes AIDS Test, Other States Push for Testing

February 13, 1996

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ A day after Tommy Morrison admitted testing positive for the AIDS virus, the referee in his bloody fight with Lennox Lewis sought to calm his mind by taking an AIDS test of his own.

Boxing officials across the country, meanwhile, renewed calls for all states with boxing to test for HIV in the wake of Morrison’s test that shook the boxing world.

``I hope we can get a bill passed in California before something major happens in this state, before some documented transmission occurs in a boxing ring,″ said Richard DeCuir, head of the California Athletic Commission.

The confirmation Monday of Morrison’s positive test prompted referee Mills Lane to go to his doctor in Reno, Nev., and have blood drawn to make sure he didn’t get the virus.

Lane was the third man in the ring in Morrison’s Oct. 7 loss to Lennox Lewis in Atlantic City, N.J., in which he was cut around both eyes in the second round and bled much of the way before the fight was finally stopped in the seventh round.

``I had blood all over me,″ Lane said. ``He bled all over me and everyone else.″

Lane, a state judge in Reno who has refereed 78 title fights, said he was unaware at the time that New Jersey was one of the many states that don’t require boxers to take tests for the AIDS virus. It is not known if Morrison had the virus at the time he fought Lewis.

Lane said he was told by his doctor that there was only an infinitesimal chance he could have gotten the virus in the ring, but wanted to take the test just to make sure.

``I’ve got a family. I’ve got a wife and two children,″ he said. ``I’m not really worried but it will make me feel better to know for sure.″

While Lane went in for an AIDS test, Lewis remained at his remote mountain retreat in Jamaica, where promoter Dino Duva said it was very difficult to reach him.

Duva said Lewis is scheduled to be tested for AIDS next month in Britain as part of that country’s requirements for his annual boxing license.

``I assume that’s what he will do,″ Duva said. ``I don’t think he’ll rush it. The risk if very small, from what I understand.″

Morrison, meanwhile, remained in seclusion in Oklahoma, waiting for results of a second set of tests taken Monday to confirm the Las Vegas test. The results of the latest test were expected Wednesday.

Morrison was expected to appear at a 2 p.m. news conference in Tulsa on Thursday to discuss the results.

His promoter, Tony Holden, said agents for Morrison and Magic Johnson were arranging a telephone call between the two. Holden said it would likely be a personal discussion of how to deal with the illness and the media attention.

``Magic is probably the best person to talk to him right now,″ Holden said.

Former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe said, however, that basketball and boxing are far apart when it comes to an HIV infected athlete being allowed to compete.

``I think it’s great for people like Magic Johnson to have the opportunity to come back and play basketball, doing what he does best,″ Bowe said. ``But as far as boxing is concerned, unlike other sports, it’s bloody and violent and the risk is far too great for fighters to contract the virus through physical contact. I would not fight someone who is HIV positive. It would just be too great a risk for me, my wife and children.″

The aftermath of Morrison’s admission affected not only his former opponents and referees, but much of the boxing world as an outcry grew for mandatory AIDS testing of all boxers.

Nevada’s top boxing official said he will push to have other states begin testing like Nevada, which has tested some 2,100 boxers since beginning its AIDS program in 1988.

Nevada is one of only a handful of states that currently require AIDS testing.

``We test about 200 to 300 boxers a year but there’s another couple of thousand that aren’t tested and are fighting in a blood sport in other states,″ Marc Ratner said. ``It doesn’t make sense. But sometimes it teaks something like this to shock the world. Maybe this will be a catalyst for the rest of the states.″

Ratner, who is president of the Association of Boxing Commissions, said he would push for mandatory testing at the association’s annual meeting in June.

New Jersey’s boxing commissioner, Larry Hazzard, said he hoped the outcry would lead to his state agreeing to mandate the testing of fighters. Hazzard said he has talked with the New Jersey attorney general’s office and is pushing a testing plan.

``I would love to announce within a week or so that New Jersey is testing,″ Hazzard said. ``I’m totally in favor of it. What happened before when we tried is we ran into these laws on civil rights and disabilities and rights to privacy.″

In Louisiana, that state’s boxing commission had been planning to implement AIDS testing even before the Morrison story broke.

``I will have a policy in place for the commission to vote on by April 1,″ said Dr. Jerry Rosenberg, the commission’s physician. ``By May 1, it should be required.″

DeCuir said he has been trying to get legislation passed for three years to require testing in California, which held 89 fight cards last year. But he said no legislators have been willing to sponsor a bill mandating testing because the issue is politically charged among AIDS activist groups.

``We are hoping that the Tommy Morrison situation will persuade somebody in the legislature to carry the commission’s bill,″ DeCuir said. ``To date, the legislators we have contacted have not been interested in carrying this issue because in this state, it is very volatile.″

Lane said he, for one, supported mandatory testing for fighters and praised Nevada for standing firm last week when Morrison at first refused to take the test.

``My belief is that it goes beyond referees and boxers and into any part of life,″ Lane said. ``If a person is carrying a disease or a virus that impacts other people, then that person owes it to those people to cough it up.″

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