Len Bias And The Drug War

Radley Balko excerpts Dan Baum's Smoke and Mirrors on this 20th anniversary of Len Bias' death. Bias was one of the few college basketball players mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan during the 80's, though in my opinion, his legend far exceeds his potential as an NBA player. I seem to remember his death being in the 6:30 nightly news for weeks after it happened. One thing that caught my eye from the excerpt is that nobody knows how long Bias had been using cocaine prior to his death. It seemed to be an accepted fact at the time that he died during his first ever hit.

As Radley points out, the behavior of politicians and pundits after his death was appalling. However, the public is no less guilty. I like to blame politicians for just about everything; it's easy. But Bias' death generated populist support for the Drug War. "The people" were not victims, but rather active players in supporting the government's engaging in para-military raids to save us from the menace of drugs.

Share this

Bias' coach at Maryland,

Bias' coach at Maryland, Lefty Driesell, said he'd almost bet his life that Bias used for the first time that night. I don't know about that, but neither does anyone else. Obviously, you can overdose the first time you use, and maybe that did happen. I'm more concerned, however, with the fact that other athletes don't seem to take notice of the Bias tragedy. On the official NCAA Blog, I wrote a post discussing Ben Roethlisberger and J.J. Redick, and how the two of them could have learned from Bias' mistake 20 years ago. Athletes are role models and they need to begin acting like it.

Josh, Indeed, but the odds

Josh,

Indeed, but the odds are that Mr. Bias had used cocaine at least once before his death. Most overdoses are not fatal, for the first use or for any use; even for cocaine. I am old enough to remember the brouhaha at the time. I don't remember the details such as the route of administration, ie, injection, inhallation, or oral. All chemicals used as drugs can be dangerous. All chemicals used as drugs can be safe. I doubt that the autopsy results are public domain so that we can corroborate any speculation.