NCAA committee rejects proposal to test for street drugs
INDIANAPOLIS -- A proposal that would have expanded the NCAA's drug-testing policy to include street drugs was rejected Wednesday by an NCAA committee. The measure would've imposed strong sanctions for violators, including a half-season suspension for first-time offenders.
The decision will not change the program currently implemented by the NCAA, which includes testing at championship events and random-year round testing for performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids. About 10,000 to 11,000 student-athletes are randomly selected each year for tests. The program was first instituted in 1990.
Carolyn Femovich, chairwoman of the Championship and Competition Cabinet, said committee members did not believe legislation was necessary since most Division I schools and conferences already test for street drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine.
"There are a high percentage of schools and conferences that already have those in place, along with an education program related to social drugs," Femovich said. "The cabinet felt it was best left at the institutional level at this time."
While the NCAA will continue to administer other drug tests, Femovich said the NCAA also has the ability to test for street drugs at championship events under current guidelines.
Penalties were part of the proposal, too. Besides first-time offenders missing 50 percent of the season, second-time violators would have faced a one-year ban and a third offense would have made the athlete permanently ineligible to compete in the NCAA.
Players could only have been reinstated after the school provided documentation showing the athlete had passed a subsequent drug test and attended either an educational or treatment program.
"I think there's an ongoing concern about the health and safety issue, and I think a lot of people thought this should be institutional protocol, not NCAA protocol, when it comes to street drugs," Femovich said.
She also acknowledged there were concerns about the cost, which estimates put at $825,000.
"We were aware of the cost, so we had to ask ourselves first, 'Does this make sense?"' she said. "So it was about how you balance the costs."
The committee also discussed concerns about women's teams that sometimes practice against male players.
Rather than recommending an outright ban, the cabinet approved a plan asking schools to reconsider the practice. Among the points Femovich stressed were looking at whether practicing against men reduced opportunities for women and whether male practice players had their own medical insurance or were being treated by the school's training staff.
It also set up a research procedure that could force the cabinet to reconsider its decision later.
"We want periodic oversight to assess trends and keep an eye on what's happening in regards to grants-in-aid [scholarships] being awarded," she said. "We want to keep an eye on this because if we see certain trends we may have to look at it again."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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