Irons Family Breaks Silence, Acknowledges Drug Use

May 23, 2011
Outside Magazine

The family of Andy Irons has released a statement acknowledging that drugs played a role in the late surf champion’s November 2 death in a Grand Hyatt hotel room in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.

In the press release issued Saturday, the family said, “We know that Andy's life and death were tainted by drugs and are ready to accept the Medical Examiner’s findings.”

The release follows Thursday’s order by a Dallas judge that Irons’s autopsy report—due to be made public the following day—instead be released only to Irons’s widow, Lyndie. The full ten-page report, which is a public document, will now be unsealed on June 20, according to assistant district attorney Ashley Fourt.

In addition to the acknowledgment, the family contends that this latest motion to delay the report wasn’t their doing and, like everyone else, they’re “still anxiously awaiting the results.” (The Ironses' attorney received a copy of the report on Friday, in accordence with the court order.)

“A lawyer in Dallas,” the statement says, “operating without authorization from the family, made a unilateral decision to request a delay on behalf of the family as a way to provide sufficient time for the 10-page toxicology report to be translated into laymen’s terms and prevent the risk of its being misconstrued or misunderstood.”

The family’s attempt to distance themselves from the court motions is the latest in a PR strategy that began with a quickly worded statement on November 2 from Irons’s family and his primary corporate sponsor, Billabong, that Irons had “reportedly been battling with dengue fever.” Irons’s drug problems have been a poorly kept secret in the surf world, as Brad Melekian reported in the January issue of Outside, but the repeated denials and surfing’s self-enforced code of silence have only increased speculation among the public, and added news cycles to a story that might have normally ended with the release of an autopsy report back in December.

The examination was completed on November 3 by the Tarrant Count Medical Examiner’s Office, but results were inconclusive, pending a toxicology report. On December 21, Mrs. Irons successfully petitioned the court to block the report for six months, citing a “media frenzy” and the welfare of her newborn son. The initial delay was out of the ordinary, according to legal experts.

“It's highly unusual, particularly because the reason the decedent’s family is getting a delay is over a commercial interest,” says George Freeman, Assistant General Counsel for The New York Times Company and Co-Chair of the American Bar Association's First Amendment and Media Litigation Committee.

That such a request was granted twice is even more unorthodox, considering the intense public interest in the case. “What's worse is that this latest delay was granted without any notice to the press,” Freeman says, “even though the court knows the press has an interest in the case.”

Outside’s calls to all three of Mrs. Irons’s attorneys—Ernest Leonard, Arch McColl III, and D. Nicholas Acuff—went unanswered. At least one of these attorneys is the supposed rogue lawyer who filed the May 19 motion “without authorization from the family.” 

In this latest public statement, the Irons family singled out Outside for printing “two quotes attributed to Andy’s wife Lyndie that were recycled from six months ago ... as if they were current.”

Specifically, the family says, Mrs. Irons “has long regretted her previous remark about the truth ‘tarnishing Andy’s brand.’” And, “Mrs. Irons’ quote that she believes the autopsy results will “contradict the rumors [of] a drug overdose” does not reflect Lyndie Irons’ or the family’s belief today.”

The former statement was summarized in the May 19 motion, while the latter came directly from it. The full text of the family’s press release is  here, along with the May 19 motion and ruling.

@Grayson Schaffer

Filed To: Surfing

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