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Doctor destroyed records from Wheeler's physical

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- A Northwestern University doctor acknowledged burning records of a physical he gave Rashidi Wheeler three weeks before the football player died during a 2001 training drill.

Dr. Mark Gardner testified for nearly 6½ hours Thursday in a lawsuit Wheeler's parents filed against the university. Only lawyers for Wheeler's family got to question Gardner before the deposition ended for the day. He is expected to continue testifying at a later date.

His attorney, Richard Donohue, said the doctor destroyed the records days after Wheeler's death and then checked himself into a hospital.

"He liked Rashidi, and it came out in the deposition that he liked Rashidi a lot,'' Donohue said Friday. "He was really distraught when this kid died.''

Wheeler collapsed and died on Aug. 3, 2001 after participating in a conditioning drill. His parents sued Northwestern, claiming officials did not give their son, an asthmatic, proper medical treatment. Northwestern argues ephedra-containing supplements Wheeler was taking caused an irregular heartbeat that led to his death.

The university added manufacturers and sellers of the supplements to the lawsuit as third-party defendants.

Gardner was Northwestern's director of student health services. He went on leave after Wheeler's death and resigned in April 2002.

The doctor gave Wheeler a routine physical on July 12, 2001. According to the lawyers present at the deposition, Gardner said Wheeler wrote on a questionnaire that he was taking an "energy shake.''

Gardner told Wheeler to stop taking the shake and give the canister to the team's trainer. Wheeler also indicated his asthma was under control, the doctor said.

Gardner said he was distraught and could not sleep after Wheeler's death. On Aug. 7, he tore up the original and a copy of Wheeler's questionnaire and then burned them. He checked into a hospital that evening.

The university has said that Gardner was under the care of a psychiatrist.

"The doctor, he's got no good explanation for what he did, except that he was depressed and sleep-deprived,'' Donohue said.

Johnnie Cochran, an attorney for Wheeler's mother, Linda Will, accused Northwestern of a cover-up last month after discovering the records had been destroyed.

But Donohue and Eric Quandt, an attorney for Northwestern, said Friday that Gardner indicated he acted alone, telling no one that he planned to destroy the records.

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