Sugar Ray Leonard, who appeared in nationally televised anti-drugs public service announcements in 1989, has used cocaine himself, according to his former wife, Juanita Leonard.
According to Maryland court records reviewed by The Times, Leonard’s wife made the charges during divorce proceedings last summer, before the two agreed on an out-of-court settlement.
The court documents also show that Leonard did not deny using drugs during his marriage and that he confirmed Juanita Leonard’s assertion that he abused her physically because of alcohol and drug abuse.
Leonard did not, however, name cocaine as a drug he used. But in one question/answer session he admitted to drug and alcohol use, and partially attributed physical abuse of his wife to his alcohol use.
Question (by an attorney to Leonard, under oath): Did you ever strike your wife at any time during the marriage with any part of your body? I don’t mean your fists necessarily--a shove, or a grab, or pushing?
Q: What incidents do you recall where there was some altercation between you and her? And describe what they were.
A: We’ve had a few scuffles, and pushing and shoving.
Q: Did you ever hit her on the head, strike her where the ring on your finger caused a cut?
Q: Did you ever strike her during those scuffles?
Q: Would you say you’ve struck her more times than she has struck you?
Q: Did you ever strike her after you had been drinking?
A: Yes. Those were the only times.
Q: Would you admit you came home sometimes after you had done some drugs?
Q: And did that cause some altercations and problems between you and your wife, the fact that you drank or did some drugs?
Q: What do you believe caused the altercations?
A: There was a period in my life when my career had ended temporarily and I was going through a state of limbo, and I wasn’t particularly happy with my marital situation.
Leonard’s attorney and manager, Washington attorney Mike Trainer, said Leonard was unavailable for comment Friday.
When advised of the contents of this story, Trainer said: “If you are writing that during the promotional period for that fight (against Thomas Hearns in June of 1989) that he (Leonard) was using drugs, that is totally inaccurate.”
On Friday, when advised of this story, Hearns said if Juanita Leonard’s charges were true, Leonard “owes the public an apology.”
“If this is true, then I’m embarrassed that we did it (the public service announcements) together,” he said.
“It was supposed to be, you know, two good citizens, role models for kids. It’s pretty bad, I’m very disappointed (in Leonard).”
Leonard, the former welterweight and middleweight world champion who retired in February, appeared in televised public service announcements in May and June of 1989 with Hearns.
The Leonard-Hearns anti-drugs announcements were tied to the promotion of their June 12, 1989 fight in Las Vegas. In the announcements, both fighters urged young people to avoid illegal drugs.
Leonard’s wife, who accepted a multimillion-dollar divorce settlement, admitted to “occasional” cocaine use during their 10-year marriage, court records show.
In response to a question about drug use, she responded, under oath: " . . . marijuana, and I did cocaine on a couple of occasions.”
In statements also under oath, she said Leonard’s alcohol and cocaine use was responsible for his alleged physical abuse of her.
In one sworn statement, she described one abuse incident:
” . . . Over a two-year period he would come home intoxicated, high. He would pull me out of bed. He’d throw me around. He at one point would harass me physically and mentally in front of the children. He cut me across my head one time with a ring (when he hit me).”
Juanita Leonard also said during a sworn statement, again under oath:
Question: What kind of drugs was he using?
Juanita Leonard: Cocaine.
Juanita Leonard also said her husband threatened to kill himself at one point during their marriage, then seemed to contradict herself:
Question: When did you learn he (Leonard) was using it (cocaine)?
Juanita Leonard: In 1986.
Q: Has he ever done anything to try and harm himself while he’s been drunk?
A: Yes. He’s pulled out the gun a couple of times. He said he would kill himself. You know, he tried ingesting a lot of alcohol and pills to kill himself.
Q: Did he ever try to commit suicide, to your knowledge?
A: Not as I know of.
Juanita Leonard said one night in 1987, Leonard threatened to burn their Maryland house after she said she was going to leave him and take their two children.
In response to a question about physical abuse by Leonard, she said: " . . . (calling) me names and abusing me physically. It got to the point where he was getting physical. He threw lamps. He knocked mirrors off the wall. I was very frightened.
“I went up(stairs) and woke up the children . . . got them out of the room that they were sleeping in . . . “
Question: All of the children?
Juanita Leonard: All of the children, to get them up so we could leave the house.
Q: What happened?
A: I told the children to get up and to go downstairs. He (Leonard) followed me into the room that we were in. I was holding my 6-month-old child. He spit in my face. He pushed me, he shoved me . . .
Q: While your son was in your arms?
Later in the interview, in describing her attempt to leave the house, she continued:
” . . . I was on my way out the door. He wouldn’t let me out. He took a can of kerosene and poured it on the front foyer floor in our house. He told me he was going to burn the house down . . . that if I was going to leave, that he wasn’t going to allow me to have the house or anything else.”
Question (to Juanita Leonard): As far as drugs, you mentioned drugs earlier. When did your husband first start using drugs during the marriage?
Juanita Leonard: I’m not sure of the time when he started using them.
Q: During what time frame did he use drugs, to your knowledge?
A: Over a period of time, I think for two years as I know of.
Q: What kind of drugs was he using?
Q: When was the last time you knew that he used drugs?
A: Sometime before I left (in 1987). I had taken some cocaine from him and flushed it down the toilet. I believe that (started) one of our arguments.
During the 1989 period when Leonard and Hearns were taping their anti-drugs public service announcements and making anti-drugs appearances across the country, both appeared one day with the Rev. Jesse Jackson in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and warned Palm Beach and Martin County school students against using drugs.
With Leonard and Hearns present, Jackson told students: “Resist drugs at all costs. We have never known a threat before of the magnitude of cocaine or heroin.”
Leonard, 34, was largely retired during the mid-1980s, fighting only once between February of 1982 and April of 1987, when he won the middleweight championship from Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
He first retired in 1982, after learning he had suffered a detached retina in training. After the injury healed, he came back to defeat Kevin Howard in 1984. Unhappy with his performance, however, he announced a second retirement.
He retired again last Feb. 10, immediately after losing a decision to Terry Norris in New York.