When an athlete at the University of Idaho failed a drug test nearly three years ago and became one of the few collegians caught cheating with performance-enhancing drugs, something remarkable happened:
He was not publicly identified or ruled ineligible. He was not banned from competition. He was not even suspended.
Instead, he faced only continued periodic testing over the next year, according to school records, and was required to enroll in a university counseling program. The school "encouraged" him to notify his parents.
Try, unsurprising. . . .
The number of athletes subjected to drug tests, the banned substances for which they are tested, the quality of the testing and the consequences of failed tests vary significantly depending on the sports athletes play, as well as the schools, conferences and states in which they play them, the investigation revealed. . . .
Meanwhile, some of the nation's largest and most prominent programs, such as Cal, Kentucky and West Virginia, do not systematically test for performance enhancers, relying on the random tests administered by the NCAA itself. But only about 4 percent of athletes can ever expect such a test.
It's possible - perhaps even likely - that most college athletes will go their entire careers without being tested for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. . . .
Few major colleges and universities systematically test their athletes for performance-enhancing steroids, for example, generally leaving that to the NCAA's drug-testing program, and only 16 of the 62 schools that provided their drug-testing policies require an athlete to be suspended from competition the first time he or she tests positive for one of the dozens of substances banned by the NCAA. The rest usually require some combination of counseling and continued testing, including the possibility of suspension or expulsion for subsequent failed tests. Some schools, such as South Florida and Tennessee, automatically suspend athletes who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but allow more lenient punishments for those who test positive for street drugs. . . .
Two schools even "trade out" university products in exchange for testing services. Documents show Oklahoma and UNLV traded thousands of dollars worth of season tickets to football and basketball games for drug-testing services.
Such practices are dangerously vulnerable to conflicts of interest, anti-doping experts agree.
"The three words I use all the time . . . are independence, transparency and accountability," said Wadler, the New York expert. "For a system to work, you can't have inherent conflicts of interest." . . .
To create the plausible threat of getting caught, the programs at Iowa and Kansas mix in steroid tests among the athletes they randomly select to test for street drugs. Athletes at Iowa who test positive for steroids are suspended from competition until they can supply a negative test, a punishment levied by several other schools as well. "At any point, an athlete isn't going to know whether we're testing for steroids or not," said Laura Reed, who administers the drug-testing program at Iowa. "They know it's a possibility."
That kind of uncertainty - especially in regard to the timing of drug tests - is viewed by experts as crucial in creating an effective drug-testing program. . . .
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Drug Testing Inconsistencies
There is a very interesting article in today's Salt Lake Tribune on testing for performance enhancing drugs at top NCAA schools. It is worth reading at length. Here are a few excerpts: