Drug abuse and the use of other banned substances is a constant thorn in the side of professional and collegiate sports. The recent 50-game suspensions of Athletics’ pitcherBartolo Colon and Giants’ outfielder MelkyCabrera for testing positive for the presence of testosterone illustrate the problems athletic leagues still struggle with on a season-to-season basis.
In light of these developments, the Penn decided to visit IUP’s substance abuse policy and learn where a large university stands on the issue of athletics and drug abuse, what preventative measures are taken and what the consequences are for those who get caught.
According to the IUP Intercollegiate Athletics Substance Abuse Policy, its purpose is to “inform and help the student-athletes deal with potential drug and alcohol problems.”
“We want to make sure that students make good decisions,” Frank Trenney, athletic trainer and coordinator of drug testing and IUP’s drug policy, said. “We inform them of the consequences. If they make the adult decision to do drugs, they will have to face the consequences like an adult.”
The policy was initially developed around 1993-1994, though no significant changes made in the last four years.
Student athletes are educated about available programs for alcohol and drug abuse. Abuse is discouraged by educating athletes in how drug use can affect themselves, their teammates and the university as a whole. They are educated in how to make healthy lifestyle choices. Finally, case management and referrals for assessment and treatment can be given to those who seek such treatments.
The policy, as Trenney explained, is basically a four-tier program. Student athletes are educated about IUP’s substance abuse policy and must sign a form indicating they have received this education, and that they understand it. Students who may have had prior issues, or students who are currently facing abuse problems, can set up counseling through the Athletics Substance Abuse Committee by notifying his or her coach. If a student initiates counseling, they won’t have to face sanctions from the athletic department.
There are two to three random drug tests held per year for the athletic department. Typically, 12 to 20 students are tested per drug test, totaling 40 to 60 athletes tested per year.
The random tests act as a deterrent and a safety gap, Trenney said.
Tests can also be made based on reasonable suspicion, such as a student smelling of marijuana smoke or showing signs of abuse. In cases of reasonable suspicion, testing could be initiated by both professors and coaches.
Finally, entire teams may be tested at any time with or without notice.
Athletes can be tested for a number of different substances, including anabolic agents, stimulants, street drugs or alcohol.
Sanctions against athletes who test positive can be particularly harsh for those with regular play during games. The first violation will bring a 10 percent suspension of games played. For football players, that can mean no play for one game; for baseball players, no play for up to five games; for basketball players, no play for two to three games.
The second violation brings a penalty of 50 percent suspension. The third violation results in permanent removal from IUP athletics.
The policy must be working, though. Trenney reported in the last three years there have been no significant results in the drug testing. Aside from a few alcohol-related incidents, IUP players have been keeping clean.