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Bias' Death Prompts Calls to Step Up Drug War

June 26, 1986|From Times Wire Services

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and a congressional leader urged President Reagan Wednesday to step up the war on drugs because of the "cocaine intoxication" death of Maryland basketball star Len Bias.

Bias, 22, an All-American who was picked second overall in last week's NBA draft by the Boston Celtics, died last Thursday of "cocaine intoxication" that stopped his heart.

Jackson told a Capitol Hill news conference: "We must see drug abuse as a threat to our culture greater than any ideology could ever be. We must rally the government to the issue of drug abuse."

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, appeared with Jackson, assailed the Reagan Administration's anti-drug efforts and called on the President to establish a coordinated national campaign against drugs.

Jackson urged the nation's colleges to help prevent drug use by athletes. Colleges "are part of the responsibility in this war against drugs," he said. "They must together look at the pressure of professional athletics under an amateur and academic veneer. Professional is the only word to understand the situation where athletes are going to school and not graduating, instead being propped up and pumped up."

Jackson called for the use of random drug-testing in sports and industry, saying, "One does not have the civil right to take drugs."

Celtic President Red Auerbach endorsed random drug-testing in the NBA, saying, "Forget the civil rights and the invasion of privacy--rules are made to be broken."

Meanwhile, Maryland basketball Coach Lefty Driesell said there is no drug problem in the school's athletic program and that the cocaine that killed Bias was apparently a first-time experiment for the player.

"He's gone because of one mistake," Driesell said. "I don't think he ever drank a beer or smoked a cigarette. He was in superb physical condition, and in about two minutes his life was gone. . . . It scares me and it scares every person on this earth."

He said Bias probably accepted the cocaine from someone who said, "Hey Lenny, try this."

Driesell also denied the charges made Tuesday when Wendy Whittemore resigned as the academic counselor for the Maryland basketball team. Whittemore cited the poor classroom performance of players and claimed that Driesell failed to make education a top priority.

Driesell said, "Any of my players will tell you I'm more concerned about academics than their jump shots and defense."

Law enforcement officials, meanwhile, continued to press their criminal inquiry into Bias' death. In the District of Columbia, one official who asked not to be identified, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the high-quality cocaine that killed Bias could not be purchased on a northeast Washington street, an area of high drug sales, as had been reported.

"You don't go up to that area and get that kind of dope," the official said. "That would have to come from a major dealer. A dealer would hold something like that for himself and his friends."

Prince George's County State's Atty. Arthur Marshall said he wants Driesell to appear before a grand jury to answer questions about what he told players at a meeting after Bias' death.

"I consoled them, we prayed together," Driesell said.

Marshall also said he may seek manslaughter charges against the person who provided the cocaine to Bias.

Two basketball players, David Gregg and Terry Long, reportedly were with Bias when he collapsed, but at the direction of their lawyer they have refused to talk with police.

The lawyer representing Brian Tribble, a former Maryland student who was reportedly with Bias in the hours before he died, said he told Marshall on Monday that "we would respond to the (grand jury) subpoena."

Asked if Tribble was eluding police, the lawyer, William Cahill, said: "He's not in hiding, he's in my office."

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