ASU's 3-Strikes Drug Policy Tests Limits

ASU's 3-Strikes Drug Policy Tests Limits
Posted by FoM on September 17, 1999 at 08:17:57 PT
By Paola Boivin
Source: The Arizona Republic
Arizona State's $75,000 investment in drug testing this year is a mere drop in the athletic department's $26 million bucket, but the return, school officials say, is immeasurable. 
"I had a player in the past where, after the second (positive test), I told him, "You're on death row,' " Coach Bruce Snyder said about ASU's three-strikes-you're-out policy. "He said, "Whew, good. Now I know I can't do it anymore.' "Some people need a deadline, a final-final. And most will adhere to it and be better in the long run." The Sun Devils' approach to drug testing reflects a nationwide trend among college athletic departments battling an upturn of recreational drug use. Marijuana use has increased among college athletes, according to the NCAA, while the use of performance-enhancing substances, for which ASU also tests, is down. School officials won't discuss specific incidents, citing privacy issues, but players, coaches and administrators throughout the Pac-10 acknowledge that casual usage is on the rise. Testing and disciplinary policies are set by schools and can vary greatly. ASU routinely suspends athletes after three positive tests, which is in line with other Pac-10 schools, but will suspend after two offenses in special circumstances. Arizona suspends after a second offense, which is in step with 60 percent of schools the NCAA recently surveyed. Student-athletes and drugsA 1997 NCAA study reported that alcohol and smokeless tobacco use among student-athletes was down from 1993, but marijuana use had increased to 28.4 percent, up from 21.4 percent in '93. Steroid use (1.1 percent) was at its lowest level since the NCAA began surveying schools in 1985. Alcohol use was down from 88.2 percent to 80.5. Although at least nine Pac-10 football players have failed drug tests in the past year, the information rarely gets out. One, they are protected by privacy laws. Two, the athletes are much less likely to talk about it out of concern for their futures. Ask Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Warren Sapp. Rumors that he failed seven drug tests at Miami (he said it only happened once) affected his draft status. Several teams that had picks before Tampa Bay never even interviewed him. Marijuana seems to be the primary target of current testing efforts. "What I've learned about college campuses, particularly marijuana, is that it is pretty pervasive with the general student population," Snyder said. "It's sad, because it doesn't promote learning and it doesn't promote ambition. "On a personal level, it's sad. I don't quite understand it because of my own personal biases. But some of these youngsters have been raised in homes in which the parents not only do it, but encourage it. It's like, 'Let's sit down and have an apple pie together.'" Testing policies varyForty-three percent of universities have a drug-testing program, according to the '97 NCAA study. A look at how Pac-10 schools tackle the issue reveals the challenges and legalities programs around the country face. At Washington and Washington State, random drug testing is prohibited because of state privacy laws, although testing is allowed when there's probable cause. Stanford doesn't test at all, a policy that can be traced to a 1987 California Superior Court ruling that said drug testing violated the California Constitution. The league's remaining schools operate under a three-chance policy, although the ramifications of each positive test vary slightly. "I would hope that the state of Arizona remains progressive in this regard and allows us to be able to do this with the students," said ASU senior associate athletic director Herman Frazier, who also oversaw drug testing as one of three vice presidents for the United States Olympic Committee. "Having been involved in this subject on the international level, I think it's a good deterrent. Plus, if you have drug testing, you have education with it. Anything you can do to get these young people on the straight-and-narrow." The Sun Devils test most of their athletes twice a year, although probable cause or a previous positive test can generate more tests. After the first positive test, the player, coach and several ASU administrators are notified and counseling is required at ASU's health center. A second positive will result in parental notification. Additional counseling and/or treatment is mandatory, and suspension is possible. A third strike means suspension from the team for one calendar year and possible cancellation of financial aid. Arizona's policy of suspending athletes for a year after a second positive test is not "to ruin somebody's career," said Bill Morgan, Arizona's assistant athletic director for compliance. "We look at it as a way to help them, and if there's a problem, to combat it early." Said Snyder, "Our job is not to kick people out or throw people out of the system. I think that's the easy way. If someone is deficient at reading, what do we do? We help them read. If they're having trouble with this type of behavior, our initial job is to help them out, although there sometimes comes a point where you have to cut bait." Cost is highMost schools screen for cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, anabolic steroids and diuretics, and the process is neither pleasant nor cheap. At ASU, one five-panel screen costs $22, plus another $75 for a steroid screen. Tack on $12 per test for an outside company to administer it (to reduce liability), and one test on an athlete can cost $109. "And we're not afraid to go over budget if necessary," ASU head trainer Perry Edinger said. Most athletes who smoke marijuana or use other drugs do it for recreational or social reasons, according to the NCAA study. Athletes also said they believe they had more stress than non-student-athletes. ASU cornerback Courtney Jackson believes most players accept ASU's drug-testing policy. "We're in a situation where we should know right and wrong, and when we're doing wrong, we should be punished for it," he said. "I think everyone on our team is pretty straight, but it's a good idea because it will help deter some people. I think it shows how much integrity Coach Snyder and ASU has by doing this." Finding a deterrentAll schools are subject to random testing by the NCAA, even those that have state laws prohibiting the school from implementing tests. The NCAA picks colleges and athletes randomly during the school year and tests at all championship events. If an athlete has a positive result from an NCAA-administered test, he or she is suspended immediately. "That's why I think a lot of coaches and school medical personnel support drug testing," Washington team physician Dr. John O'Kane said. "You would much rather have someone come up positive in your own system and deal with it than have a surprise at a bowl game. If you look at it that way, it's really very rational. "For us, we really thought it would be better for us to have our own system, but we were shot down." Snyder believes the fear of drug testing is enough to keep some athletes from risking drug use. "I'm not an expert, but the No. 1 tool they have in rehab is periodic testing," he said. "The person being rehabbed says, "I'm going to be tested tomorrow, so tonight I'm not doing it.' That knowledge that you are being tested on a consistent basis is the preventative that gets them through." Pac-10 schools that test randomly also allow athletes to report on themselves without fear of penalty. The only catch is that the athlete must receive counseling. They also are subject to further testing. "We want to give them the opportunity to help themselves," Southern California associate athletic director Daryl Gross said. "The biggest thing to remember is that along with testing comes education." Pac-10 medical personnel met in San Francisco last May to discuss a variety of student-athlete health issues, including drug testing. "There was a consensus that a drug-education program was absolutely essential in all the institutions," O'Kane said. "But they were split about testing. Some schools felt that drug testing was a real integral part of their drug-education program, but others didn't think it was that beneficial. "The ultimate decision should be what you think is best for the student-athlete." Although the three-strikes policy may seem lax, Pac-10 officials say it is the only way colleges can get away with drug testing and avoid legal implications. "Sometimes I think no-tolerance may be the way to go," Snyder said. "But when I really look at it, at the end of the day, I feel good about our policy."  By Paola BoivinThe Arizona RepublicSept. 17, 1999 Copyright 1999, Arizona CentralA.C.L.U. To Sue Over Student Drug Testing - 8/18/99
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