For student-athletes around the country, substance abuse testing procedures are in place to ensure that they do not consume performance-enhancing or illegal drugs. At Binghamton University, all student-athletes are subject to the athletics department’s drug testing program, in addition to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) procedures.
Approximately 30 percent of respondents to Pipe Dream’s drug survey indicated that they have been drug tested before, and 7.5 percent said athletic involvement in high school or college was one of the reasons they had been tested. According to Chris Downey, director of sports medicine at BU, the athletics department explains its alcohol, tobacco and other drug policies in its Student-Athlete Handbook, which is published annually.
“It’s commonplace in Division I athletics for schools to supplement the NCAA drug testing program with their own,” Downey wrote in an email. “In addition, the random drug testing for Binghamton student-athletes is governed by a third party.”
At BU, the consumption of alcohol by student-athletes under the age of 21 is prohibited, and student-athletes of all ages are not permitted to drink alcohol in connection with any team function or athletics department activity. As the University is a tobacco-free campus, the use of tobacco is also prohibited for student athletes in connection with a team function on campus. Unless prescribed by a physician, stimulants, amphetamines, barbiturates, phencyclidine, benzodiazepines, cannabinoids, synthetic marijuana, anabolic steroids, methaqualone, cocaine and opiates are prohibited at all times, regardless of whether the athlete is in season. Some coaches also impose dry seasons for their teams, when student-athletes avoid alcohol in addition to other substances banned by the NCAA and the athletics department.
The tests administered through the athletics department’s drug testing program test for all of these substances. There are four ways in which student-athletes can be selected for drug testing as part of the athletics department’s substance abuse screening program. Most commonly, student-athletes are selected randomly for testing, using a computerized list that is produced at various times throughout the year.
Additionally, a student-athlete can be tested if there is reasonable cause — defined by the Handbook as information given to coaching staff, sports medicine department or athletics administrator that is “in good faith” or “from a reliable source” — to suspect they may be using banned substances. Head coaches have the authority to screen all athletes on the team at their discretion, but any expenses incurred from these drug tests is assessed to the team’s budget. Failure to appear for the testing or any other attempt to circumvent the screening process is treated as a positive test, and if the student-athlete is unable to produce a urine sample when requested, they will be expected to ingest eight ounces of fluid every 15 minutes until an acceptable sample is produced.
The NCAA may also mandate testing during or prior to NCAA Championship competitions, should a team or individual qualify. Positive results can result in immediate suspension, regardless of the existence of previous penalties.
If an athlete is tested and has a positive test, Downey, BU’s athletics director, the student-athlete and their coaches are notified via a written letter. The student-athlete is then required to meet with Downey and begin attending intervention and education programming at their direction. The student-athlete’s head coach has the option to impose additional sanctions on the athlete. According to Downey, all athletes are informed of the drug policy and possible sanctions before arriving at BU.
“The incoming student-athletes receive a packet via mail from sports medicine that entails many different documents,” Downey wrote. “Part of the packet is the substance abuse screening [and] deterrence program policy, banned substance education information and a consent form to participate in the program.”
But if a student-athlete with an existing violation tests positive again, they are suspended immediately and are required to miss approximately 20 percent of their team’s intercollegiate contests. The suspension, which does not include scrimmages, carries over from season to season and does not include scrimmages. With a third positive result, a meeting is arranged between the student-athlete, head coach and athletics director. The student-athlete is then suspended from all participation, a suspension that lasts through the following academic semester. Student-athletes in this situation also risk losing athletics-related financial aid, and will be referred to rehabilitation.
During the testing process, all positive tests are immediately retested to ensure accuracy. If a retest is negative, a student-athlete would not see sanctions or a violation. All student-athletes that test positive are also entitled to appeal the results of a positive test prior to the implementation of any sanctions. Within 48 hours of the test, the student-athlete can request a hearing with the athletics director, or a designee. The hearing will be held within 96 hours of the request, and the student-athlete will be informed of a decision within 24 hours of the hearing.
In order to be reinstated to a team after a suspension, student-athletes must pass a fourth drug screening at the conclusion of the suspension period. If this test is positive, the student-athlete is no longer eligible for participation in the University’s athletics programs. If the result is negative, athletics eligibility can be restored.