Stock car driver Tim Richmond contracted AIDS from an unknown woman and died of complications caused by the disease, a physician close to the driver's family said Wednesday.
"There's no way of knowing who that woman was," David W. Dodson said at a news conference. "Tim was a celebrity with a lot of charisma--a handsome guy. He naturally attracted a lot of women."
Dodson, who specializes in internal medicine and infectious diseases here, first treated Richmond in February, 1987, and was the attending physician when the NASCAR driver died.
Secrecy surrounding Richmond's death Aug. 13 at Good Samaritan Hospital had fueled speculation about the cause, which officially was listed as natural. Dodson said the driver's parents had decided to release information about the case.
"They lost a son to AIDS, and they don't want other parents to lose a son," Dodson said. "There's a lesson to be learned from Tim's death. A young active man was struck down because of AIDS, and it happened because of his sexual activity. People need to take precautions."
Richmond's parents did not attend the news conference.
"They are going through their own nightmare right now in dealing with their son's death," Dodson said. "The added publicity was making their ordeal much worse."
The Palm Beach Post and ESPN had reported that Richmond, who was 34, had suffered from AIDS.
Dodson said that Richmond, who was single, was diagnosed as having the disease in 1986 while hospitalized for pneumonia.
"We would like to dispel any rumors as absolutely untrue that he contracted the disease through intravenous drug use, homosexual encounter or a blood transfusion," Dodson said. "Tim died of complications of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which he contracted through heterosexual contact."
Richmond's best year on the NASCAR circuit was 1986, when he won seven races.
Despite the illness, Richmond won two consecutive races in 1987. The next week, he missed a race because of complications from AIDS, Dodson said. And shortly thereafter, he resigned from his racing team.
NASCAR suspended Richmond in February, 1988, after a drug test showed that he had used banned substances. Dodson said that Richmond told him he had not used illegal drugs.
A later test showed that Richmond had used nonprescription drugs found in over-the-counter remedies. NASCAR lifted the ban, but demanded his hospital records.
Richmond refused because he didn't want to disclose his illness, and his refusal prevented his return to racing, Dodson said.
Dodson also said that the family had established a memorial fund in Richmond's name to benefit AIDS research.