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Ainge Opens Up About Addiction At Tennessee

Earlier this week, former Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge opened up to ESPN New York about his lengthy battle with drug addiction.  Ainge said that he became addicted to pain killers during his senior season in 2007.  He also said that at various times he has been hooked on cocaine and heroin.

Immediately after the Ainge story broke, questions arose regarding UT’s drug testing policy as well as what coaches might have known — and ignored — during Ainge’s tenure.

WNML-AM/FM in Knoxville spoke with Ainge yesterday.  First, the ex-Vol talked about his addictions and the fact that he never got caught doing drugs at UT.

Jimmy Hyams, show host: “You mentioned that you were a drug addict your last year at Tennessee, is that correct?”

Ainge: “Yeah, I got hooked on pain killers my senior year at Tennessee. … It was when I broke my pinkie finger my senior year, I chose to play through the pain and, you know, the doctors they wrote the prescriptions just as they should have, just like they would for a normal person, normal athlete, anything else.  And, um, you know, a one-week prescription would last me one day.  You know?  And it wasn’t their fault.  Erik was the problem, not anyone else.  And once they said, ‘Okay, we can’t give ‘em to you anymore,’ … I was already hooked on ‘em.  And… I knew I wasn’t gonna go to rehab in the middle of my senior season when we were playing good and winning games and things were going well.  So I just kept getting drugs on my own.”

Hyams: “Were you taking any other drugs besides pain killers while you were at Tennessee?”

Ainge: “Uh, yeah, man.  I mean I don’t like sharing it, I’m not proud of it, but I’ve done everything that you could do, basically”

Hyams: “How did you not get tested for positive drug tests at Tennessee… or did you have some?”

Ainge: “Uh, I don’t… I mean I think I would’ve known if I had any positive drug tests.  Uh, I don’t know, you know?  I didn’t get tested that much, I don’t know the facts of how they test.  It wasn’t like I was a drug addict so it wasn’t like I was doing it, you know, every day.  So I don’t know if I would have been passing the tests ’cause I would’ve had, you know, clean urine or what.  But, I don’t know.  I just never got in trouble.  I guarantee you they weren’t covering it up.  It’s nothing like that.  I just never got in trouble.”

Hyams: “Did that surprise you?”

Ainge: “Yeah, I kinda wish I would have.  That might have stopped this… might’ve nipped this in the bud a long time ago.”

Ainge then said that his use of cocaine and heroin came mainly after he “got some money and moved up North” as a member of the New York Jets.

Asked about his former position coach and offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe — now the head coach at Duke — Ainge said that his coach was good for him:

“He kept me… I was up early every morning watching film.  He told me to dress nicer.  He told me to do my interviews nicer.  Told me to get better grades.  He told me to live better.  And to an extent I did, but I still did my own thing, you know?  I was living a double life… the life that Coach Cutcliffe saw and then I lived a life when I went home to my apartment.” 

Ainge also said that during his addiction to pain killers at Tennessee, he was “a functioning addict” who was able to play some of his best football and make good grades.  Now, trying to stay clean, he’s living in Boston with his uncle, Celtics GM Danny Ainge.

As we stated when this story came out, we at wish the best for Ainge in his ongoing recovery.  It takes some serious guts to admit a problem as large as Ainge’s.

But you can expect more questions to be asked about Tennessee’s drug testing policy and how Ainge might have avoided detection for so long.



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