- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 25, 2006

Len Bias, drugs and Maryland

Thanks for your perceptive Op-Ed column reminding us of the terrible tragedy of the drug overdose death of Len Bias (Deborah Simmons, “In honor of Len Bias,” Friday).

The Washington Times published my letter to the editor at the time of his death. The essence of my letter was that if a person like Len Bias, with all the advantages of strong family, strong religious faith, good upbringing, full college education, top athletic acclaimand the multimillion contract he had just signed with the Boston Celtics — if he could fall into the trap of drug abuse and overdose death, how much more vulnerable would less fortunate youngsters be to the lure of mind-altering and addictive substances?

My letter advocated, as a solution, the drug testing of schoolchildren solely for treatment purposes. That was the first time to my knowledge that health-related student drug testing had been advocated in the public media. The idea was picked up by Nancy Reagan’s National Federation of Parents under the then-leadership of still-active drug preventionist Joyce Nalepka, and at its national conference of 1986, it passed a resolution endorsing student drug testing.

At that time, the military services had recently begun a very successful program of drug testing because of the drug abuse and violence that had racked the military services since the Vietnam War, andit was quite successful. Thus, the idea of adapting this successful program to the problem of drugs and violence in schools seemed logical.

In our attempts to make sense of Len Bias’ tragic experience and make something positive result, I fully appreciate your article remembering him. I hope you can continue to use this awful historical event to help us promote the eventual solution to this continuing national health and safety crisis of massive drug use, violence and death resulting from the tenaciousplague of drug use among schoolchildren.

DEFOREST RATHBONE

Chairman

National Institute of Citizen

Anti-Drug Policy

Great Falls

We don’t need to pay homage to a drug user. As the parent of two, I can think of a whole host of people who have predeceased us who are far more important.

PATRICK DUKE

Bethesda

Congrats on a very fine, well-written column. It provided me with a lot to think about. There are a couple of points that I believe that you have missed.

I attended as an undergraduate and graduate student two very well respected universities in the 1970s. What I saw was rampant drug abuse among athletes — not steroids back then, but vitamin overdoses before competition, the whole spectrum of illegal recreational drugs that comes to mind from that era and injections so that guys would be able to play. So, the argument that the University of Maryland’s Athletic Department didn’t know what was going on is ridiculous.

If I were to entrust my child to any university, I would expect that somebody in a position of authority would know what was going on if it was happening on a large scale. The guys I saw got their vitamin overdoses and injections — not to mention a side income from shoe, clothing and dietary-supplement sales — provided by the athletic department. Gee, how did those 20 scholarship-track guys use up 1,000 pairs of sneakers and 300 T-shirts this year?

Nothing has changed — nobody at the University of Maryland officially knew that Chris McCray was not attending his family studies class this January. That has ruined the team’s season. The team would have been very competitive with him. The official line I have heard is that nobody knew what was happening.

Come on, now — if nobody in the athletic department knows what the captain of the men’s basketball team is doing, should someone be brought into the program who makes it his or her business to know what is happening? After Len Bias, should this not have been done long ago?

The hard fact is that it goes on everywhere, today even in high school, and all the students know it. But, of course, the professionals getting paid big bucks to manage these young people don’t know anything. Are you going to defend this quality of athletic management?

Basketball coaches Lefty Driesell and Gary Williams should have received far more harsh criticism that you meted out.

MARK STENERSON

Oakton

Not just another Greek island

Though the overall tone of “U.S. ready to trade with Turkish Cypriots” (World, Tuesday) is positive, the article contains some inaccuracies and imbalances that need to be rectified.

First, the article should not have been placed under the heading “Greece,” creating the false impression that Cyprus is just another Greek island. This is an independent land with two independent states on it— the Turkish Cypriot state in the north and the Greek Cypriot state in the south — pending a political settlement. The issue of recognition does not change this indisputable fact.

Second, Turkey did not “occupy” Cyprus in 1974 but legally intervened, as per the Treaty of Guarantee of 1960, to protect the Turkish Cypriots against Greek aggression and save the bicommunal independence of Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots did not “break away” from the legitimate republic as a result of this rescue operation but were forcibly ejected from the legitimate bicommunal Republic of Cyprus by their Greek Cypriot partners well before then, in 1963.

Third, the unfounded Greek Cypriot charges of “neocolonialism” etc. need to be put in perspective because Greece and Greek Cypriots are the ones who have tried to colonize Cyprus in recent history by annexing it to Greece (Enosis). It is unfortunate that the attempt to create a Greek-dominated Cyprus continues under the leadership of Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, who has adopted a sinister policy of what he calls “osmosis,” which is just another term for assimilating the Turkish Cypriots. (See his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 18.)

As for Turkey’s “obligation to open its ports to Greek-Cypriot ships and aircraft,” one should not forget that the European Union also has an obligation to remove the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots by directly aiding and trading with them.

Although the EU Council made a decision to that effect in April 2004, it so far has failed to put the decision into force. Turkey’s recent “Action plan on lifting of restrictions in Cyprus,” dated Jan. 24, is a good way to address both issues in a spirit of reciprocal good will.

Finally, it would have been in keeping with the norms of journalistic objectivity and impartiality if my views had been sought in connection with this article, alongside those of my Greek Cypriot counterpart, Ambassador Euripides Evriviades. I hope this letter will help rectify this obvious imbalance.

OSMAN ERTUG

Representative Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

WASHINGTON

Iran and the shrine bombing

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accuses the United States and Israel of blowing up the “Golden” Mosque, methinks he protests too much (“Shrine bombing rocks Iraq,” Page 1, Thursday). When you ask the question: Which party stands to gain the most from chaos in Iraq? There is one clear answer: the fundamentalist mullahs of Iran.

Whether it is orchestrating riots at the Danish embassy in Tehran or causing chaos in Baghdad, the mullahs desperately need scapegoats and loud distractions from their pursuit of nuclear weapons. The West would make a big mistake if it misread their maneuvers.

TOM MINCHIN

Melbourne, Australia


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