Bird: NBA Will Never Be Drug-Free

From Associated Press

Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, although a strong supporter of the NBA's anti-drug policy, says the league will never be free of drugs.

"There are always some guys you can't control, but if you can help a few, it's worth it," Bird said. "But believing there can be a drug-free league is just naive."

It is Bird's belief that despite the NBA's anti-drug policy, there are probably some players who are so drug dependent that no amount of education or penalties will help them.

On Jan. 13, Mitchell Wiggins and Lewis Lloyd, both of the Houston Rockets, were banned from the NBA for cocaine use. Micheal Ray Richardson and John Drew have also been banned.

Bird said he was not sorry to see Wiggins and Lloyd go because, in his opinion, they betrayed other NBA players.

"The league needed something like this to happen because it woke people up," Bird said. "It was too bad for the guys it happened to, but they didn't care about our league."

But Bird, like other players, believes the league's campaign to combat drug abuse is helping--to a point.

"The drug situation may be better than a few years ago, but it's still a problem because drugs are so prevalent in society," said Detroit's Isiah Thomas, one of the spokesmen for the league's 'Don't Foul Out' education program. "It's not just a problem for athletes, it's even a problem in the White House."

"There's a percentage of every section and segment of life that takes drugs, and we (in basketball) have our percentage, too," Dallas' Mark Aguirre said. "I think it's a lower percentage than what's publicized, but we're nationally known and we get publicity when we falter."

The anti-drug program, announced jointly in October 1983 by the NBA Players Assn. and then-Commissioner Larry O'Brien, gives players two chances to come forward for treatment of illegal drug use.

The first time a player is treated, he is given his full salary during the time of rehabilitation; the second time, he is suspended without pay; and the third time, he can be banned indefinitely from the NBA, with the possibility of reinstatement in two years.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World