Oct. 7, 2004
The rising use of steroids among collegiate athletes has caused the sports world to stop and re-evaluate its athletic integrity. As a result, the National Collegiate Athletic Association is subjecting all athletes, including Santa Clara, to year-round randomized testing.
"I definitely think it's a good idea," Scott Heinrichson, assistant director of sports medicine, said. "I think the NCAA has a duty to ensure a fair contest between two teams. Taking steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs creates an unfair advantage."
But critics believe that drug testing college athletes is wrong because it places athletes in a negative light.
One student at the University of New Mexico said in a previous interview that there has been no precedent saying athletes are more inclined to use drugs than other groups on-campus.
Not only is it a violation of their privacy and basic rights, but it places negative connotations on the athletes themselves," Donovan Kabalka said.
Nevertheless, the NCAA feels its duty to protect the health and safety of student athletes. They want to ensure that no athlete has an artificial advantage or is pressured to use chemical substances. The drug testing program was created by the National Center for Drug Free Sports in 1986.
For the past 15 years, drug-testing had been regulated by the major Division IA and IIA conferences rather than the NCAA, except at national championship events. Beginning in 2004, the NCAA now regulates athlete drug-testing at all schools.
Richard Kilwien, associate athletic director, said that Santa Clara does not have its own drug-testing policy because it has never been an issue. Santa Clara will just abide by the NCAA rules.
"The policy being implemented does not reflect any increased concern that there are any problems at Santa Clara or at any other institution specifically," said Kilwien when asked if there was a drug problem among Santa Clara athletes. "Simply put, drugs and steroid use has been a concern of the NCAA for a number of years and now there is a system to test on a national basis."
Who gets tested
Every Division I institution will be drug-tested at least once each academic year. Only eight student-athletes will be randomly selected from one sport at a time. The drug-test could occur before, during or after their season.
The National Center for Drug Free Sports notifies the institution via email only 48 hours in advance. Some criticize the testing procedures to be ill-focused, inviting the risk of false-positives. But Michelle Pikor, graduate assistant in the Santa Clara training room, explained how she doesn't even know who will be selected.
"The NCAA crew chief gets to decide who is getting tested and when," Pikor said. "What's scary is that most athletes won't know that some of their prescription drugs can test positive. Even protein shakes have steroids in them that may test positive."
However, Kilwien said that Santa Clara has an education program that lets the athletes know prior to their season what they can take to be medically cleared and eligible to compete.
"It's a matter of communication with your trainers to see what's OK," Kilwien said. "Basically, it is also just knowing what you're putting into your body."
How it works
The program involves a urine collection on specific occasions and laboratory analyses for stimulants such as cocaine and ephedrine, anabolic agents including testosterone and steroids, diuretics and illegal street drugs such as marijuana and heroin. Even dietary supplements and medications can test as positive.
Each year, student athletes will sign a consent form demonstrating their understanding of the NCAA drug-testing program and their willingness to participate. This consent is required of all student athletes before participation in intercollegiate competition during the upcoming year.
According to the NCAA, an athlete who tests positive shall lose a minimum of one season of competition and will remain ineligible for one calendar year after the athlete's drug test and until the athlete retests negative.
Despite the consequences, most student athletes would agree that drug-testing is a good thing.
Dan Jordan, a senior on the men's crew team, believes that athletes should not take any form of drugs period.
"I think that it is a justified thing for the NCAA to do," Jordan said. "Athletes are looked at as idols by America's youth and if they are thought to be taking drugs or supplements that is going to want to make young people do it too. Basically it needs to be known that taking drugs will not be tolerated."
Besides being role models to younger kids, some say athletes represent their school and are highly respected among alumni. Megan Foy, junior basketball transfer student, says that scholarship athletes especially should not abuse their rights as a student athlete.
"Since the school is paying for our education, we owe it to them to compete 100 percent by ourselves without the help of a steroid," Foy said.
"It ensures fair play among all athletes," Foy said.
* Any questions regarding NCAA drug testing or appeals of positive tests, contact (816) 474-8655 or www.drugfreesport.com,/A>.