SI Vault
Edited by Craig Neff And Robert Sullivan
July 07, 1986
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July 07, 1986


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Len Bias, the former Maryland basketball star who died of cocaine intoxication on June 19 (SI, June 30), was buried last week. He was eulogized as a good young man who made a tragic decision to try drugs. "You cannot judge Lenny, or any other player, on the basis of his last shot," said Rev. Jesse Jackson.

But Bias's death raised troubling questions. A Prince Georges (Md.) County grand jury will try to clarify the mysterious circumstances under which Bias obtained cocaine on the morning of his death and could conceivably file criminal charges against those involved. The University of Maryland Board of Regents, meanwhile, will begin an internal investigation into the handling of the Bias case by Terrapin basketball coach Lefty Driesell, who reportedly advised his players how to answer—or not answer—media and police questions about the case. Driesell says that he called his players together on the morning of Bias's death only to console and pray with them.

The Board of Regents also will look into reports of academic abuses and drug use by other Maryland athletes. Five of 12 basketball players—including Bias—reportedly flunked out of school during the spring semester, and on Tuesday the basketball team's academic counselor, Wendy Whittemore, resigned, saying she felt education is not Driesell's top priority. Whittemore told The Washington Post that Maryland basketball players missed 35% to 40% of their classes last season and that Driesell didn't always act in the best academic interests of his players. Whittemore's predecessor as academic counselor, Larry Roper, made similar complaints when he resigned last year.

Maryland apparently has also been lax in the administration of its drug testing of athletes, which began last fall. University officials admitted for the first time last week that several athletes had tested positive and that there may have been cheating—switching of urine samples—during the tests. Furthermore some players had been warned four weeks in advance of supposedly random tests. The university has promised to tighten control of its drug-testing procedures.

In response to last week's revelations, Maryland chancellor John Slaughter announced that he would shift control of the academic support unit for athletes from the athletic department to the academic sector. He also said he would convene a special session of the NCAA Presidents Commission, which he chairs, and insist the group take a strong stand against drug use in college athletics.

Bias's death—and that of Cleveland Browns safety Don Rogers last week (page 18)—may or may not discourage drug use to any significant extent, but it at least has brought the drug problem to the fore. Cocaine hot lines nationwide have been besieged. NBC hastened its plans to air anti-drug spots on all its sports telecasts. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.), chairman of the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, called for support of three bills aimed at drug prevention and education.


The summer folk on Martha's Vineyard are doing it. The beautiful people of Malibu are doing it. Even President Reagan's nominee for Chief Justice, William Rehnquist, does it on his lawn in Arlington, Va.—and he has done it for a while.

They're all playing croquet, that old whack-the-ball-through-the-wicket game you enjoyed as a kid. According to Jack R. Osborn, president of the U.S. Croquet Association in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., up to 300,000 croquet sets will be sold this year, twice as many as five years ago. Osborn says there are perhaps "seven million sets in the garages and attics of American homes, and many are coming out of storage." And this isn't just a domestic phenomenon. Croquet courts are springing up in retirement communities in China. Soviet cosmonauts, upon returning to earth, are being encouraged to unwind by playing croquet. There are more than 6,000 tournament players in Australia.

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