The Legacy of Len Bias


Twenty years after the death of Len Bias, Radley Balko declares that "Perhaps no single event is more responsible for [this] pit of Drug War insanity." He backs that up with an illuminating excerpt from Dan Baum's book Smoke and Mirrors.

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  1. Sports radio was all a-blather about how this showed “Drugs are bad”. Unsurpisingly, noone had the intellectual acuity to understand the difference between Charles Barkely saying:

    “Then, we heard the reports were that Bias only used [cocaine] once . . . that it was his first time. When I heard that, it scared me to death . . . scared the daylights out of me. It scared me into not trying it even once, not going anywhere near it.”

    and the government forcing this personal choice on the rest of us.

  2. len bias is a good one.

    here’s another…

    Ben Johnson

    prior to Ben Johnson testing positive for Stanazolol, steroids were not controlled substances. the ‘let’s do it for the children” hysteria prompted congress to schedule AAS (anabolic androgenic steroids)

    a little known fact is that the ***DEA*** (yes,THAT DEA), the american medical association, and pretty much everybody else testified before congress that steroids should NOT be controlled substances as they are (relatively) safe, not prone to abuse, etc.

    i could also mention the absurd “ephedrine scare” and subsequent ban (the ban was on selling ephedrine for dietary supplement use – it was never illegal to POSSESS fwiw) that was completely nonscientific and contrary to DSHEA

    that ban was overturned recently by a US appeals court which ruled (correctly) that the AER’s were ridiculous, the evidence noncompelling, etc.

  3. that ban was overturned recently by a US appeals court which ruled (correctly) that the AER’s were ridiculous, the evidence noncompelling, etc.

    I believe this decision only covers Utah. I don’t know if ephedrine supplements are now sold in Utah, but AFAIK everywhere else is still subject to the ban.

  4. Lenny Bias was a rank amatuer: thousands upon thousands of young black/white/et al men had no problems in the ensuing years doing crack. His death had absolutely no impact upon them. BTW: did Magic Johnson Bar stop any of HIS behavior upon hearing (how could anyone NOT hear about AIDS since 1984 when gays blamed Reagan for bad meat in the can). Did thousands upon thousands of young black/white/et all men stop their sexual behavior upon learning of Magic having The Bug?


  5. mp, you’re wrong.
    the decision does not only cover UTAH.

    it affects the federal ruling, but of course any state can impose more strict regulations (like california has)

    “This ruling has limited effects at the moment since the FDA may appeal this decision. Additionally, the ruling has no effect on the laws of several states (including California, Illinois and New York) which have banned all sales of ephedrine alkaloids in dietary supplements. The ruling also only applies to products containing 10 mg or less of ephedrine alkaloids per daily dosage. Any product exceeding that amount is still banned and will continue to be enforced under the FDA rule.7”

  6. Jeez, that’s a scary picture on the left. It’s not Halloween yet – why the jack-o-lantern?

  7. Sage,+P, I agree. Between the Ann-o-lantern and the carpet humper, I must say that the former is far more unnerving.

  8. After reading “A Carnival Of Buncombe” which is a collection of Mencken columns during the prohibition age – including some hilariously pompous editing from the late-50’s academic who wrote several chapter introductions in the book, including one apologizing for Mencken spending so much time on prohobition instead of Hitler – I’m looking forward to reading this book even though it will probably not have the same enjoyable tone.

  9. Time to cut out a line!

  10. That excerpt was a case study in democratic absurdity.

    – Josh

  11. The reaction over Len Bias’s death ended up having a perversely destructive effect on African American communities. Take a look at Maryland (where Bias attended college):

    In 1986 [the year Len Bias died], White and African American drug offenders represented similar proportions of all those sent to prison in the state (17% and 15%, respectively). But by 1999, nearly half (47%) of all African American prison admissions in Maryland were for drug offenses, compared with 21% for Whites. African American are 28% of the general population, 68% of all people arrested for drug offenses in Maryland, and 90% of the people imprisoned in the state for drug offenses.

    The increase in African American admissions to prisons for drug offenses was 18 times greater than the increase in White drug offender admissions between 1986 and 1999. African American admissions for drug offenses represented 94% of growth of the state’s use of prison for drug offenses. The African American rate of drug prison admissions per 100,000 citizens grew at 8 times the rate of the White drug prisoner rate over the period. In 1999, African American youth represented 93% of all young people admitted to prison for a drug offense. Between 1986 and 1999, African American youth represented 96% of the new youth prison admissions for drug offenses.

  12. Personally i blame Nancy Reagan for needing something “worthwhile” to do with herself. I didn’t need to take a drug test in ’84 when Boeing hired me, but by ’89 at a printer company i needed to. If Nancy had just said ‘no’ to being a busybody we’d all be better off.

  13. don’t ignore the fact that it was (primarily) activists IN the black community that pushed for legislation making sentences for crack cocaine MORE severe than powder cocaine

    blacks are (on average) more likely to use the former, and whites more likely to use the latter

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