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Episode 039 – Discussing drug policies in college football

Interview with Brett McMurphy of AOL FanHouse

Drugs and college football are by no means nothing new, but in this day and age of sports the issue of drugs in sports has never been under such scrutiny. With steroids taking over the baseball headlines in recent memory with Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds taking one of the top records in all of sports and essentially spitting on it while on their own way in to the record books Major League Baseball has taken some measures, although after being pulled by the hair to do so by the government, to clean up its game. A new drug policy was put in to place but even that was widely criticized at first. It did not take long for Major League Baseball to re-evaluate its drug policy and add even harsher punishment for even a first offense of using performance enhancing drugs.

Oklahoma's drug issues were put on the front cover of the February 27, 1989 issue of Sports Illustrated.

But we are not a stupid society (although we may do stupid things). We know that there are other drugs that are being used by various athletes not just in baseball but in professional basketball and football and throughout the college game. Not even Michael Phelps, world class swimmer, could avoid the headlines for allegedly partaking in some drug related activity. Former National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants had a court date in the state of Washington for possession of marijuana.

That athletes have been caught using  or possessing drugs is not a shock. It has been happening for years, sometimes with fatal outcomes. Which is why I found it surprising to learn that there are four universities in BCS automatic qualifying conferences РClemson, Ole Miss, Purdue and UCLA Рthat have a drug policy set in place that allows for a player who has been found guilty of two, TWO, positive drug tests to not miss any playing time. Brett McMurphy of AOL FanHouse brought this tidbit of information to light in a recent investigative report that revealed the basics of the drug policies in place at 60 big football programs around the country.

Every school has a different drug policy that is separate from the NCAA’s own drug testing program and the severeness of the punishment varies from school to school. In addition to the four schools mentioned above that allow for two failed drug tests without risk of missing playing time, there are more schools who leave the decision up to the athletic director rather than have a policy set in stone. For example, Florida State sates that an “unspecified suspension” will be handed to any second time offenders of the drug policy but the length of the suspension will be left to the judgment of the school’s substance abuse committee and “influenced by the length of the season.” At Virginia the suspension is determined by the head coach, which allows for a lack of suspension the way I interpret it.¬† At Texas a second violation will lead to a decision by the athletic director. The policy states that “if suspended, length of suspension determined by athletic director.”

There is a lot of ground to cover when discussing drugs in sports so feel free to add to the conversation in the comments section. Obviously this kind of topic will raise questions. Here are a few questions to ponder…

  • Should there be a universal drug policy either nationally or by conference or should the policies be left to the individual university?
  • What is the best way to monitor drug tests and what kind of power should be given to the schools or NCAA in the process?
  • What concerns do you have about drug testing in college athletics, not just football? What could be done to address your concerns?

As with many hot topic issues, McMurphy’s report brought many questions to mind, so I was happy to have a few minutes to speak with him about his report. One thing that stood out to me that McMurphy told me was how some schools will use their rivals’ drug policies as a recruiting tool to sway a prospect away from another school.

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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