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Tuesday, October 21, 2003
State police may open investigation

Associated Press

TACOMA, Wash. -- A University of Washington team doctor says he warned athletic department officials twice that another physician now suspended from practicing medicine was over-prescribing narcotics to softball players and failing to keep their medical records.

Still, he says, the university continued to use Dr. William Scheyer as a softball team physician and consultant for two years.

Dr. John O'Kane told The News Tribune he contacted athletic department officials as early as 2001 and met with two assistant attorneys general a year later about Scheyer's questionable medical practices.

In a separate development, Washington State Patrol investigators planned to meet with the U.S. Attorney's Office to determine whether to proceed with a criminal investigation of Scheyer, State Patrol spokeswoman Nelsa Brodie told The Olympian newspaper.

"They hope to know in a day or two," Brodie said Monday.

UW athletic director Barbara Hedges did not cut ties with Scheyer until this past August when the state Health Department was investigating allegations of improper prescriptions.

The state suspended Scheyer's license last Thursday. The state Medical Quality Assurance Commission accused the Kirkland doctor of writing prescriptions for more than 5,000 doses of narcotics, anabolic steroids, sedatives and tranquilizers in the names of a UW athletic trainer, a UW softball player and a national USA Softball team trainer.

Scheyer has not been accused of any criminal activity. He has denied giving medicine to patients without first examining them.

Jim Muldoon, Pacific 10 Conference assistant commissioner, told The Olympian this week the Pac-10 will wait for the UW to complete its internal investigation before deciding how to proceed. The NCAA's Kay Hawes said the NCAA doesn't confirm or deny investigations.

The Associated Press was unable to reach Scheyer for comment Tuesday. A call to his Kirkland office was routed to an answering service that would not take a message.

State investigators believe the drugs were intended for the UW and national softball teams, according to investigative reports.

"In retrospect, it turned out that it really was a problem to have Bill working with the softball team. I don't know why he was retained," O'Kane told the Tacoma newspaper.

After initial news reports on the investigation last week, UW officials called a news conference during which Hedges defended her program and said there was no evidence of prescription drug abuse or steroid use by student athletes.

Hedges also said she never heard concerns about Scheyer until state investigators contacted her this summer.

"The university will conduct an independent investigation regarding the Department of Health's Medical Quality Assurance Commission's report," athletic department spokesman Jim Daves told AP on Tuesday. "At the conclusion of the investigation, the athletic department will respond to questions regarding this matter."

Norm Arkans, special assistant to the UW president, said no timeline had been set for completing the investigation.

"We'd like to do it expeditiously," he said. "It's not going to take three days. I hope it doesn't take three weeks."

"We want to look at what was going on with Dr. Scheyer," Arkans said. "We want to look at dispensing drugs to student athletes and if there were indications that there were problems with Dr. Scheyer before the board's investigation, what were they and what could we have done about it."

"Right now, we've got a lot more questions than answers," he said.

Softball coach Teresa Wilson has said she knew nothing about Scheyer's alleged prescription irregularities, or that he had written 126 prescriptions in the name of one of her players. The student, whose identity was not released by state investigators or the UW, has said she did not receive most of the medication prescribed under her name.

But O'Kane, who has worked at the UW since 1994, said he heard from trainers that students were receiving "tons" of medications from Scheyer without proper examinations and that Scheyer was known to have walked the aisle of an airplane after a football game handing out medicine to the players from his pockets.

O'Kane, the softball team's physician for the past year, relayed the stories to investigators with the Medical Quality Assurance Commission and state Pharmacy Board in May.

O'Kane said when he first suspected problems with Scheyer three years ago, he asked the campus pharmacy where athletes fill their prescriptions to audit the medications Scheyer had prescribed.

The investigation revealed nothing, O'Kane said, because Scheyer was filling most of his prescriptions at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle through pharmacist Edward Matsuwaka.

The state Pharmacy Board last week accused Matsuwaka, who also was involved with the UW athletic program as the softball team's volunteer game photographer, of improper conduct. He has not been accused of any criminal activity.

In Fall 2001, O'Kane said he shared his concerns with associate athletic director Dave Burton, who took the matter to his administrative superiors, the News Tribune reported.

O'Kane said he brought up more concerns to athletic department managers in Fall 2002. He said he also spoke with Karin Nyrop and Nancy Hovis, two state assistant attorneys general assigned to the UW.

But nothing happened until this past August, when Hedges ousted Scheyer as a volunteer consulting physician to the softball team.