The New York Times
May 7, 1987

Psychiatrist Russell Ferstandig

Psychiatrist Russell Ferstandig

Michael Ray Richardson, the talented but troubled playmaker who was suspended from the National Basketball Association because of repeated cocaine use, charged yesterday that a New Jersey psychiatrist treating him for addiction last year once sent him out to buy cocaine.

”He sent me to get the drug for lab purposes,” Richardson said at a news conference called to announce a malpractice suit against Dr. Russell Ferstandig. ”He said he wanted to see what I was smoking and how he could treat me.”

Richardson, who says he is now drug free, said that while buying $60 worth of crack for the doctor, he decided to ”get some for myself.” The result, he said, was that he began using cocaine regularly again, leading to his suspension from the N.B.A. in February 1986. The suspension, for at least two years, was automatic under league rules because it was the third time Richardson had tested positive for cocaine.

Robert Wright, a New Jersey attorney who returned messages left on an answering machine at Dr. Ferstandig’s office, said neither he nor his client would have any comment.

Dr. Ferstandig was arrested by Federal agents for possession of crack, a smokable form of cocaine, in August 1986 in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. The United States Attorney’s office in Manhattan said that Dr. Ferstandig pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charge of possession last October and was sentenced to three months probation.

Richardson, wearing a white sweatshirt and white sweatpants, was accompanied by lawyers from the negligence firm of Lipsig Sullivan and Liapakis as he made his charges at a lower Manhattan restaurant. He said that Dr. Ferstandig had met with him ”three or four times” in Ridgewood as part of an after-care program before asking him to buy crack. Some of the meetings only involved discussion of sports and took place in pizza parlors, according to one of the lasyers, who said such sessions deviated from acceptable treatment practices.

”He knew that I shouldn’t be around drugs, or even see them,”said Richardson, who is to play with the Long Island Knights in the United States Basketball League in an effort to get back into the N.B.A. next year.

Richardson, at the urging of his attornies, declined to say where he bought the cracks other than somewhere in New York City ”where I knew they were selling drugs.” He said he bought six vials of crack for Dr. Ferstandig, but an attorney, Edward Milstein, prevented him from saying how much he bought for himself.

Until them, Richardson said, he had not used drugs since being released several weeks earlier from a California addiction treatment facility, where he had spent 17 days for cocaine use. Richardson, who was back with the New Jersey Nets shortly after getting out of the clinic, said he used cocaine a few more times before the N.B.A. tested him and found the traces.

The malpractice suit, filed in New Jersey Superior Court on Monday, askes for unspecified damages against Dr. Ferstandig. It claims that ”the improper aftercare” treatment caused Richardson to lose his annual salary of $725,000 and various endorsement contracts wort $25,000 a year.

There was some dispute between Richardson and the league over how he came to choose Dr. Ferstandig. Richardson said his former agent, Charles Grantham, and a doctor from the California facility had made the choice.

But Gary Bettman, vice president and general counsel of the N.B.A., said that Grantham alone had chose Dr. Ferstandig and that the treatment facility had merely reviewed his credentials and found them satisfactory.

”They said this is the guy we want, so we didn’t fight them,” Bettman said. Grantham, who is also executive vice president of the players union, was out of town and unavailable, according to the union.


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Russell Ferstandig