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Cocaine Led to Bias' Death, Medical Examiner Finds

June 24, 1986|From Times Wire Services

BALTIMORE — University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias died of cocaine intoxication that interrupted the electrical activity in his brain and caused his heart to stop, the state medical examiner said today.

Dr. John Smialek said the cocaine probably was taken only minutes before the 22-year-old star athlete collapsed in his dormitory room last Thursday. He said he could not estimate how much cocaine Bias had ingested, but he said it would be incorrect to label it an overdose.

No alcohol was found in Bias' system, he said.

The medical examiner said there was no evidence of any heart damage or disease. He said Bias had a large heart, but that "was not unexpected, considering his superb athletic condition."

Sensitive to Drug

Smialek said there was no evidence that Bias was allergic to cocaine, but that Bias exhibited a sensitivity to the drug.

"This particular concentration might not have killed another individual. On the other hand, some might have been killed by lesser concentrations," Smialek said.

Bias, made the second pick in the NBA draft last Tuesday by the Boston Celtics, had passed several physical exams before the draft.

The autopsy report showed that his blood cocaine level was 6.5 milligrams per liter, Smialek said. There was no evidence of alcohol or other drugs.

He found no adulterants in the blood, indicating that Bias had ingested a pure form of cocaine. It appeared that Bias had snorted the cocaine, but that was not certain, Smialek said.

Reports of Delay

There had been reports of a delay of as much as 30 minutes before Bias' roommates summoned an ambulance to the Maryland dormitory where he collapsed. Smialek said Bias would have required medical care within four or five minutes of the time his heart stopped to save his life.

The necessary medical care would have been life-support equipment or cardiopulmonary resuscitation administered by a professional, he said.

A teammate gave Bias cardiopulmonary resuscitation before the ambulance arrived.

Smialek said he could not be certain whether Bias had used cocaine previously. He said use of cocaine can produce changes in mucous membranes, and such changes were not evident in Bias.

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