30 Years in 30 Days: Day 14- The Conspiracy

When major events take place (JFK's assasination, 9/11) alternative explanations begin to be conjured up by society.  This has been even more prevalent since the dawn of the internet.  If Len Bias died today you could've expected a bunch of different conspiracy theories to evolve and spread like wildfire.  However even though it's been 30 years, there was one at the time that did come up for discussion.

In September of 1986, a new medical report was compiled and produced by Dr Ivan R. Mattei, Prince George's Hospital chief pathologist at the time; Dr Charles H. Peddicord, director of toxicology at the time; and Dr. William A Barnes III, the clinical laboratory director.  Their report suggested that Len Bias died as a result of swallowing cocaine, possibly in a drink, rather than sniffing it.

The new report was commissioned by Arthur A. Marshall, the state's attorney who was leading the grand jury investigation of the death.  The report concluded that Bias suffered an overdose on 3 to 5 grams of cocaine that could have been dissolved in 12 ounces of soda or beer. The amount of cocaine found in Bias's stomach fluids was ''significant'' and ''far too much to be accounted for by snorting,'' the report said.

This report at the time even had the Bias' parents' backing.  Both James and Lonise, Len's parents, were convinced at the time that Len had ingested the fatal dose unknowingly.

Of the three men,  Mattei testified in front of the grand jury at the time of the Bias case for an hour allegedly "sticking to his guns."

Dr. John Smialek, Maryland's chief medical examiner, whose office performed the autopsy, rejected the findings and was quoted as saying he believed Bias sniffed between 400 and 500 milligrams of cocaine.  The official autopsy report, written by Dennis F. Smyth, an assistant medical examiner, concluded that Bias died of cocaine intoxication, but did not say how Bias had ingested the drug. Smyth said later that redness in Bias's throat suggested that he might have smoked the drug, burning his throat. But Smialek said the redness came either from vomiting or the placement of an instrument in Bias's throat during the attempt to resuscitate him. 

Smialek said that if Bias had swallowed 3 to 5 grams of cocaine, much more than 5 milligrams would have been found in his stomach. He said their report was "an opinion that was based on a great number of assumptions which I feel are inappropriate."

I distinctly remember this at the time as a kid, holding out hope that this is what really happened.  Someone spiked Len Bias' drink and wanted him dead.  Who stood to gain from that?  Pat Riley flashed across my mind.  Pat Riley hired Brian Tribble to do his deed! (It's amazing how a kid's mind works at 8).

But similar to the Derrick Lewis story, this tale has also lead to a lot of dead ends in finding out what happened with it.  What transpired in court?  Was this ultimately dismissed as being a legitimate explanation for what happened?  I've read on multiple accounts that the amount of cocaine found in Bias' stomach was very high to have occurred from snorting the drug.

CelticsLife wasn't able to locate Dr Mattei or Dr Barnes.  Dr Smialek is since deceased.  And Dr Peddicord never got back to us, leaving us to speculate more on this alternative idea hypothesized on at the time.

14 Seasons Before: 1972-73, Celtics lose in Eastern Conference Finals
14 Seasons After: 1999-00, Celtics fail to qualify for playoffs

Index of 30 Years in 30 Days articles