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October 20, 2005 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-10-20

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Continued from page 4B
The penalties
It's easy to understand why the thought
of a false positive is so devastating to the
testers. Any player who eventually does
show a positive result is subject to stiff
penalties from the NCAA. For a first-
time offender, the punishment is removal
from competition for one year, contin-
gent upon negative tests for the athlete
throughout that period and at least one
in the month leading up to his scheduled
_ return. A second positive results in the
loss of all remaining eligibility, a ban
from NCAA competition. The excep-
tion is if the second positive is for a street
drug, in which case a minimum one year
penalty will be instituted.
An appeals process is also offered. If
a player can prove to the appeals com-
mittee that the collection method was
flawed or that he was not at all respon-
k sible for having the banned substance
in his system, the entire penalty can be
overturned. If the athlete proves he was
not "significantly responsible," the pen-
alty may be cut in half.
The strictness has led athletes and
administrators to praise the program's
"On a scale of one to 10, I'd probably
rank it a nine," said Don Kaverman,
who is the athletic director at Southeast
Missouri State and head of the NCAA's
drug-testing subcommittee. "It's a very
thorough, comprehensive program.
It's been well tested. It's executed by
extremely competent professionals. In
sports, I think we have the best drug test-
ing program in existence, period."
"I think what (the NCAA) does is
enough. I think the deterrent is enough. I
don't think they need to do more testing,
there's not any known rampant usage. I
think the NCAA does a fine job as far
as I'm concerned," said junior Rondell
Ruff, a member of the distance medley
relay team that went on to win the title
due to the disqualification of Arkansas.
The problems
Even with all the laurels, the NCAA
program is far from perfect.
One problem is that schools's own pro-

grams do not necessarily offer a sufficient
supplement to the NCAA's policy.
Because of the low number of ath-
letes who are actually tested each year
(Only 10,558 samples are collected from
375,851 athletes over all three divisions.),
many schools have implemented their
own drug-testing programs. But the high
cost means many test only for street drugs.
Wickerham approximates lab cost alone
for a steroid test would be around $150
compared to $25 for just street drugs.
This is more troubling to smaller schools,
where they may have more student-ath-
letes than a Division I school, but a much
smaller budget.
"The most important thing with drug
testing is that their college or university
test as often as possible, maybe as often as
once or twice a month," Wickerman said,
"And that they do it in enough quantity at
each time, you know maybe 10-15 ath-
letes, so that the student athlete thinks and
believes that they either might get selected
or might get selected twice in order to
deter their use. You know, some schools
might only get to test twice semester.
Well, in our opinion, that's not the best
way of drug testing because it really isn't
frequent enough to deter a student athletes
use of a banned substance."
In addition, many schools impose pen-
alties much more lenient than the NCAA.
At Southeast Missouri State, which only
tests for street drugs, a first infraction
results in a suspension of no more than
90 days while the second calls for a loss
of scholarship. Kaverman says he thinks
his policy is stricter than most because
other schools have no punishment - just
counseling on a first offense - and wait
until three or four more infractions are
committed before a student is seriously
Michigan's own policy, which The
Michigan Daily obtained through a Free-
dom of Information Act request, is in
accordance with the trend of leniency. It
subjects athletes to random testing, "rea-
sonable suspicion" testing and testing if
a doctor feels it necessary while diagnos-
ing a medical problem. A coach may also
ask the Athletic Department to subject his
team to "PHASE II" testing, which would
test the full team twice a year. Although
the policy, specifically mentions the test
are conducted for abuse of "amphet-
amines, cocaine, marijuana, barbiturates,


The NCAA conducts urine tests on 18 football players from every Division I school each year.

opiates, etc.," it mentions that all other
substances banned by the NCAA may
also be added to the test.
A student athlete's test will be consid-
ered positive based on the concentrations
set by the NCAA unless the physician
conducting it feels there is a serious health
risk. The first positive can result in the
athlete being referred to counseling, and if
he does not attend the counseling, the ath-
letic director or coach could suspend the
athlete. A second positive imposes a sus-
pension of at least 10 percent of the team's
season - again with a stricter penalty up
to the head coach or athletic director. A
third positive sends the student to manda-
tory substance-abuse education and sus-
pends him from competition for a year.
An athlete may appeal the penalty upon
the completion of the education program
and proof of drug-free status.
"It really varies from institution to insti-
tution on what the philosophy is and how
this issue should be treated," Kaverman
But the NCAA's program as a whole
faces its own challenges. For starters, the
program's accuracy in diagnosing posi-
tives allows for the possibility that many
cheating athletes remain undetected.
"There are lots and lots and lots of false

negatives, that's the problem," Dr. Cat-
lin said. "The only way you can operate
without false positives is to have false
negatives. There are a lot of those, yes. We
don't know how many. If there's element
of doubt, you have to call it negative."
The NCAA's own numbers seem to
back this conclusion. In the NCAA's recent
Study of Substance Use Habits of College
Student-Athletes, a survey conducted
once every four years, 1.2 percent of ath-
letes admitted to having taken anabolic
steroids. But, looking over the NCAA's
drug-test results for the 2003-04 school
year (which was the last year before year-
round drug testing was instituted for every
sport), only .6 percent of tests registered
as positive, which includes those for all
banned substances, not just steroids.
Another issue arising from the testing is
discovering how to test for certain drugs.
An example is human growth hormone,
which is on the NCAA's banned list but
remains undetectable. It's a question that
continues to plague Catlin's lab. How can
he test for something if he doesn't know of
its existence?
"The problem is that there are hun-
dreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands
of potential steroids out there, and we
don't know which ones the clandestine

chemist are making or using," Catlin said.
"So we need somebody to tell us, which
doesn't happening very often, or we need
the government to go bust somebody like
they did in BALCO. Or we need some-
body to say such and such a urine sample
has a clandestine steroid that helps a little
bit. Or we have ways of searching for any
steroids, but I'm not going to discuss those
- those are our own work product and
they're secret. So there's a game going on
out there."
A deeper issue
But perhaps the greatest threat to
the NCAA is a societal problem - the
fact that, no matter what, athletes will
always be tempted to cheat.
"There's always going to be felons
in this sport," track and field junior
Andrew Ellerton said. "Some people
are going to try to get around it."
"It's just a fact of life," Kaverman
said. "There are going to be students
who make poor decisions, whether
they're athletes or nonathletes whether
it relates to drugs or something else ...
I think the program's been effective. I
think institutions have been effective
in communicating the message to their
student athletes. But, we're not naive
enough to think that it's going to totally
eradicate the use of drugs by student
Catlin attributes part of the desire to
the benefits involved in developing new
"There's money involved in this busi-
ness - a lot of money," he said. "Wher-
ever the money flows, you can imagine
there are people who are trying to figure
out a scheme to get some of it. And a
good way to get money in athletics these
days is to come up with somebody we
don't know about because they can just
use it and get away with it. So it's hard to
imagine that the bad guys are just going
to roll over and play dead."
Still, he said he remains optimistic
for the future.
"There'll always be people out there
who are scheming to figure out a way
to beat the system. We know this, we
are encountering them every so often.
Hopefully, we'll catch enough so that
one day they decide to give up and play
fair. Now it isn't there yet, but there's
signs that things are moving that way."

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Exploring the challen
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12B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 20, 2005

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