Incoherent Drug Policies for College Athletics

Colleges seem to be very interested in testing athletes for marijuana use, not so concerned with steroid use.

You’d think that a “don’t do drugs” rule for college athletes could be reasonably dependable across schools. But it isn’t.

According to an Associated Press article by Eddie Pells in the San Antonio Express-News:

An Associated Press survey of measures used by the NCAA, conferences and more than 50 schools to keep steroids and performance-enhancing drugs out of sports found policies all over the map — with no consistency or integrated strategy to tie them together.

[Some policies] like the one at Florida — were stringent, booting athletes who test positive for steroids into Phase IV of its sanction program, which calls for missing at least 50 percent of the season. Others barely mentioned performance-enhancing drugs. Not a single school’s drug policy submitted to the AP read exactly the same as another — even within conferences and states — and the majority appeared much more concerned with curbing recreational drug use than steroids.

The trouble is that while the NCAA and all schools prohibit drug use, both performance enhancing and recreational, by student athletes, schools don’t have a uniform way of dealing with that prohibition.

NCAA prohibits drugs, of course, but has no real policy to test for drug use or to punish if schools discover that students are using drugs. Schools have their own policies, but testing and sanctions are inconsistent, even for different schools in the same conference.

Of the schools with Division I football programs that responded to the AP survey, for instance, 98 percent said they had drug testing programs in place. This sounds nice, but only 18 percent, however, test for anabolic steroids. One would think that this might be one of the most important drugs to keep out of college football since its use constitutes cheating.

Virtually all of these school said they test for marijuana and cocaine, though the drugs aren’t performance enhancing and are thus irrelevant to ensuring fair play.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer