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Rob Ford says he wasn’t drinking on night of Leafs lounge standoff

Toronto mayor Rob Ford at the Maple Leafs’ last home game of the season on April 5, 2014.

Chris Langenzarde/CityNews Toronto

Rob Ford says he was not drinking or drunk over the weekend when he created a commotion at a Toronto Maple Leafs home game, but refuses to say what he was doing at his City Hall office until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Toronto's mayor was the subject of much speculation after reports emerged of Mr. Ford becoming "visibly upset" after he was denied access to the exclusive directors' lounge at the Air Canada Centre and was seen jumping into a cab with unidentified men after the game. Mr. Ford also attended the Blue Jay's home opener Friday night.

Mr. Ford addressed reporters Monday afternoon at city hall, saying he wanted to "clarify a few rumours that are going around."

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"All these innuendos that people are making that I was drunk. I wasn't drunk at either game. I wasn't drinking at either game," Mr. Ford said.

Councillor Frank Di Giorgio, who attended the Toronto Maple Leafs game with the mayor, said Mr. Ford was told by security staff that he wasn't welcome at the board of directors' lounge, which the mayor interpreted as retribution for his vote on Thursday against a plan by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to improve its BMO Field facility at Exhibition Place with the help of a $10-million loan from the city.

The lounge, which serves food and alcohol, is for the use of MLSE's board of directors and their guests. A source said the mayor was turned away from the invitation-only directors' lounge because his name wasn't on the guest list and the facility was at capacity, noting that Saturday was the Leafs' last home game of the regular season.

After being told during the first intermission that he couldn't visit the lounge, the mayor became "belligerent" and "unruly," according to a source who requested anonymity. Mr. Di Giorgio disagreed with the characterization, but said the mayor was "certainly visibly upset."

Mr. Di Giorgio, who said the mayor is "accustomed" to dropping by the lounge, said a security guard later asked him for assistance in controlling Mr. Ford's "behaviour in terms of what he was saying about why he was barred from the directors' lounge."

Asked Monday if he thought his denial of entry into the lounge was a "political move," following his vote against putting city funds toward an expansion of MLSE's soccer stadium, Mr. Ford stepped back from his comments over the weekend. "Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn't," he said.

Mr. Di Giorgio said he and the mayor became separated after leaving the game as Mr. Ford was swarmed by at about 100 people. Instead of going to an Italian-Canadian event with Mr. Di Giorgio as planned, Mr. Ford hopped into the front seat of a taxi while one or two people from the crowd got into the back.

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Afterward, Mr. Di Giorgio phoned Mr. Ford to find out what had happened.

"He wouldn't say where he was. He just kept saying he was okay," he said, later adding: "There was not much else I could do, though I felt some responsibility in that I had wanted to take him somewhere else because he had been invited to make an appearance at another function."

Mr. Ford instead went back to his office at City Hall. "The mayor entered city hall with two guests. The two guests left prior to the mayor leaving," City of Toronto spokeswoman Jackie DeSouza confirmed.

He stayed at city hall from 10 pm until about 1:30, before going to a nightclub, Mr Ford said, adding that he went to the Muzik club (which is also at Exhibition Place) after getting a call from "Z," an apparent reference to the club's operator Zlatko Starkovski.

"There's nothing more to this story, guys. You are trying to find something that's not there. There's absolutely nothing there," he told reporters.

Mr. Ford would not answer questions about the late-night visit to his City Hall office, site of an after-hours St. Patrick's Day party in 2012 that ended with the mayor in the lobby, liquor bottle in his hand.

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"I can do whatever I want. This is my office," he said.

Asked by reporters on Monday if he was under the influence of drugs on Saturday night, Mr. Ford said, "No I wasn't. Not at all."

Asked if he still uses drugs, he said, "You know what, you guys are going to ask stupid questions. I'm gonna… That is a stupid question," and returned to his office.

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