Lefty Driesell said yesterday his recent comments that cocaine can be "performance enhancing" for some athletes were misinterpreted, and that it was not his intention to imply that drug use has any advantages.
Driesell, Maryland's former basketball coach and now an assistant athletic director there, issued a statement yesterday to clarify his remarks, made last Friday at a drug seminar in Rhode Island. On Monday, he is scheduled to meet with Lew Perkins, Maryland's new athletic director, at Perkins' request, to discuss the statements.
Perkins said yesterday he will not comment until he talks with Driesell, who was forced to resign as basketball coach last fall in the aftermath of star player Len Bias' death from cocaine intoxication on June 19.
Through a spokesman, Perkins emphasized that Driesell was not representing Maryland when he appeared at the seminar.
"Lefty contracted on his own to make the speech," Perkins said in a statement issued through the Maryland sports information office. "He was not representing the University of Maryland as an assistant athletic director, or in any other capacity, with any of his comments."
Driesell was in Orlando, Fla., yesterday and is appearing today on a panel entitled "Covering the Drug Issue" at a national sports editors convention. In a telephone interview yesterday, he said, "I'm not saying use drugs, I'm saying the exact opposite. I am violently opposed to drug use, that's what I'm fighting against."
Adding that "I'm no drug expert," he said his original statement was based on legitimate medical opinions that cocaine can act as a short-term stimulant to the body by increasing the heart rate and adrenalin production.
Driesell said he made his remarks while he was advocating drug testing for athletes. In reply to a question on the subject, he told the seminar, ". . . if you know how to use it and use it properly, it can make you play better." Since then, the remark has been taken out of context, Driesell contended.
In a prepared statement, Driesell said, "When I was asked if I supported testing athletes, I said yes. Obviously some athletes at least think that cocaine or other drugs may enhance their performance, and that's what we've got to fight. We've got a huge problem and I'm trying to face it head-on. My intent is to save athletes the agony they are facing with cocaine and to wipe it out of athletics and our lives to the greatest extent possible. Anyone who knows me knows I abhor drugs, and I don't want anyone thinking otherwise."
Bud Edwards, Maryland's vice chancellor for institutional development, said yesterday that, to his knowledge, the university is not contemplating disciplinary action against Driesell.
United Press International reported that Driesell's statement could affect his chances of becoming coach of the Charlotte Hornets, one of four National Basketball Association expansion teams. UPI quoted a source close to the team as saying that Driesell may not be a favorite for the job, as some thought him to be, as a result of the controversy.
Team owner George Shinn was not available for comment.