N.B.A. Finds Minimal Use of Marijuana in First Tes

N.B.A. Finds Minimal Use of Marijuana in First Tes
Posted by FoM on February 07, 2000 at 07:35:33 PT
We'd Like To See a Drug Free League
Source: New York Times
For the first time the league is now testing for marijuana, and Dumas's calculations appear more than slightly off. According to two people with knowledge of the results, 12 out of 430 active players tested positive for marijuana during training camp last fall. 
On the surface, the result -- 2.8 percent of players tested positive -- seems to quell growing concern over marijuana use among N.B.A. players during the past few years. But while some players think the numbers will undercut the perception of widespread use, others acknowledged that the results may have been influenced by the fact that the players knew in advance when they would be tested. Under the collective bargaining agreement that the N.B.A. and the players' association negotiated last year, players were tested for marijuana, steroids, amphetamines and LSD. Citing confidentiality, neither N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern nor Billy Hunter, the executive director of the union, would comment on the drug-test results. But a league official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the N.B.A. and the union were "more than happy" with the first round of testing. "This marks a step forward for the N.B.A.," said Rob Houseman, the deputy director of strategic planning for the White House Drug Control Policy Office. "It's a mixed bag. On one hand, it's probably accurate 12 out of 430 players did test positive. Part of that is, they knew when the tests were going to be given. Part of that also has to do with a tremendous deterrence effect. That shouldn't be discounted." Under the new agreement, more than 500 prospective players and coaches were tested during training camp. Of the players who tested positive, 12 remained on active rosters once teams were whittled down before the start of the regular season. They were ordered into the league's after-care program, according to the people with knowledge of the results. "I'm not sure it means the new drug program should be held up as a model, but there should have been something implemented just so people don't think or run away with the idea that every basketball player is using marijuana," said Jerome Williams, a forward who is the Detroit Pistons' union representative. He added: "If anything, it shows you can't believe everything you read regarding 70 percent of the players using drugs. No one knows exactly what goes on on the other teams in the N.B.A., but the statistics don't lie." In 1997, after a series of off-court incidents involving N.B.A. players possessing marijuana, The New York Times reported that interviews with two dozen players, former players and team officials indicated that 60 to 70 percent of players in the league smoked marijuana and drank excessively. "I think a lot of people are going to be shocked by the results," Marcus Camby said of the tests last fall. The Knicks forward agreed in 1997 to perform community service to avoid prosecution on a marijuana possession charge. "It shows the testing is working," Camby said. "I've always felt there was a misconception about how many people are actually using." Houseman, the official in the White House drug policy office, said he did not think the problem was overstated before. "I think what you're actually seeing is a change in behaviors," he said. "When you know your million-dollar contract and your million-dollar endorsement deal can hang in the balance on whether you get high on a Friday night after a game, it's just not worth it. I think the program has helped change behavior." The 12 players who tested positive are undergoing counseling and treatment in the league's marijuana program under the supervision of the N.B.A.'s medical director, Dr. Lloyd Baccus. These players can now be tested routinely for marijuana. Stanley Roberts of the Philadelphia 76ers became the first player banned under the new agreement when he tested positive for an amphetamine-based drug in November. Before the league and the players association reached the collective bargaining pact in January 1999, the N.B.A. tested only rookies and only for cocaine and heroin. Veterans were tested only if there was reasonable suspicion that they were using heroin or cocaine. One of the cornerstones of the new labor agreement, the drug program created a stir from the start. The league and the union mutually agreed to suspend testing in late October because the agreement's confidentiality provisions were breached during the first three weeks of testing. The Times reported that several players had tested positive during the first week of tests. The Times also learned the names of two of the players who had tested positive for marijuana, but declined to publish the names. Though the old agreement was hailed as a model for professional sports when it went into effect in 1983, only seven players were suspended in 16 years -- including the former Knick and Net Micheal Ray Richardson, who was suspended for cocaine use and reinstated after two and a half years and is now playing in Europe, and Roy Tarpley, who was disqualified for cocaine use in 1991, reinstated in 1994 and disqualified again in 1995 for failing to comply with terms of his after-care agreement (he had tested positive three times for alcohol abuse). Dumas, 30, who is now playing professionally in Bosnia and hopes one day to return to the N.B.A., was the last player suspended under the rookie testing provision of the old program. He tested positive for cocaine while with Phoenix in 1991. He was reinstated, but was suspended before the 1993-94 season for failing to cooperate with guidelines of his rehabilitation program. He was tossed out in 1995 because he violated a clause in his contract that prohibited him from consuming alcohol. In a telephone interview last week, Dumas applauded the recent efforts by the N.B.A. and the union. But he said he was not convinced that testing for marijuana would solve the problem of drug use. "By warning them the test will be during training camp, the N.B.A. is basically saying, 'Go get ready for it and please don't mess up,' " Dumas said. "The players who use marijuana say to themselves, 'All right, I'll chill out, make my money and wait for the summertime.' Believe me, it's more of a cover for all the players who got caught with possession. "Do I think the league is interested in people getting better? Yes. But I also think they're more worried about their image and making money. Maybe I was wrong about what I said, but the new drug program isn't going to completely take care of the problem." Camby was also candid, saying that "there are always methods to get around the test." "You could ask a pharmacist for a recommendation to mask a drug in your system," he said. "There are products out there. Everyone knows it." Camby added: "I hope this isn't an excuse for the league to increase the testing, so guys are getting randomly tested all the time. If they use these results as a reason to pick, dig and pry some more, that would be wrong." Under the labor agreement, veterans can be tested after training camp only if the league demonstrates to an arbitrator that there is reasonable cause to believe the player used or possessed marijuana. A second positive test for marijuana requires re-entry into the marijuana program and a fine of $15,000. If a player tests positive for marijuana a third time, he can be suspended for five games. Players cannot be dismissed from the league for marijuana use, but they can serve continuous five-game suspensions. A single positive test for cocaine, heroin, amphetamines or LSD can result in banishment from the game. A player can request reinstatement two years after the date of his dismissal. One of the reasons the players agreed to marijuana testing was because the new policy emphasized confidentiality and treatment over immediate punishment. "We're very encouraged," Houseman said. "Now we'd like them to take the next step forward with more education and treatment. Just as we'd like to see a drug-free workplace, we'd also like to see a drug-free league." Published: February 7, 2000Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company CannabisNews Search - N.B.A. Articles:
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