College Sports and Drug-policies: Newspaper Finds Inconsistencies

SALT LAKE CITY

When it comes to testing athletes for drugs, there are many inconsistencies at colleges and universities, from the money spent on programs to punishments given to offenders, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The Salt Lake Tribune said it requested information from 119 schools and received some from 79.

At least 67 percent said some athletes had tested positive for certain drugs, mostly marijuana, since 2004. Thirty percent said they give random drug tests, and 21 percent require a suspension with a first positive result.

Courts in Colorado and Washington state have barred public schools there from conducting random tests. Connecticut, Utah and Texas-El Paso don’t notify a parent of a first failed test, according to the Tribune.

Some schools think an athlete might think twice if mom or dad finds out.

“I don’t know about you, but if I had to sit in on a conference call with my dad after smoking marijuana, I wouldn’t have to worry about penalties from the university,” said Phil Voorhis, head trainer at Northern Illinois.

South Carolina told the newspaper that it spends more than $150,000 a year on drug tests and education. Twelve schools spend $5,000 or less, including Boise State, Central Michigan and Memphis.

Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State, UCLA and Florida State were among 23 schools saying they spend $10,000 to $25,000 a year, the Tribune reported.

Oklahoma and UNLV traded thousands of dollars in basketball and football tickets in exchange for drug-testing services, according to the Tribune.

No regulatory body oversees or monitors drug tests done by schools, the newspaper said. The NCAA provides a page of “suggested guidelines” in an 18-page manual.

The NCAA tests athletes at football bowl games and championship events and also makes campus visits, but not every athlete gets tested. Nonetheless, some observers believe the programs administered by the NCAA and the schools complement each other.

“If you look at steroid-use numbers in college athletics, they peaked in the mid-1980s,” said Frank Uryasz, president of the National Center for Drug Free Sport, which handles the NCAA program.

“The reason they stopped there is because the NCAA implemented its testing program. … We’ve seen a steady decrease in steroid use in that population every since,” Uryasz said.

Athletes who fail an NCAA test are suspended for a year and lose a year of eligibility, the Tribune said.

A steroids test can cost $150, compared with $15 to $20 to check for common drugs, the newspaper said.

“If someone comes back from the summer and it’s clear he’s put on an unnatural amount of muscle, we’ll test him,” said Randy Oravetz, director of sports medicine at Florida State. “But when you have hundreds of athletes, who’s doing what is hard to figure out.”

Utah provided many details to the Tribune. Athletes have failed 22 of 801 tests since 2004, nearly all for marijuana.

Baseball players tested positive in 10 of 122 tests, the highest percentage among Ute athletes, the newspaper said.

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com



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