Wisconsin-Stout to begin testing athletes

MADISON, Wis. -- The University of Wisconsin-Stout will require athletes to undergo random drug testing, a response to December police searches that netted steroids and other drugs from the homes of two football players.

School officials said Thursday that the football team's 100 players will be tested this spring for commonly abused drugs such as cocaine and marijuana, and a quarter will be randomly tested for steroids. Players in other sports at Wisconsin-Stout will undergo random drug testing starting in the fall.

The announcement came one day after a local prosecutor said he was considering expanding an investigation into steroid use among players on the school's NCAA Division III football team.

"You've got a couple of people associated with the football program in possession of steroids. I just wonder how much more extensive it is than that," said Dunn County District Attorney James Peterson. "I'm very concerned about the proliferation of steroids in sports and the serious long-term side effects for those who use them."

A committee formed by UW-Stout chancellor Charles Sorensen recommended the new policies on Thursday. The committee was formed in December, the day after police arrested football players Luke Steffen and Nicholas OrRico, startling the school of 8,400 students in the western Wisconsin city of Menomonie, 70 miles east of Minneapolis.

Police seized three bottles of liquid steroids and other drugs from the home of Steffen, a senior linebacker who led the team in tackles last year. Steffen told police that people used his house "to use, buy, sell, package and store various controlled substances" including marijuana, cocaine and steroids.

Authorities also seized marijuana and one container of liquid steroids from the home of OrRico, a junior linebacker. And a former player who left the team in 2005, John Henry Freeman III, was arrested after police said he twice sold cocaine to an informant.

Steffen, OrRico and Freeman have pleaded not guilty to a variety of drug charges.

University spokesman Doug Mell acknowledged the new drug tests, administered when spring practice begins, will not catch football players who might have used steroids last season.

"The point is to make sure that when athletes step on the field from here on in they will be drug-free and everybody can be assured of that," he said.

NCAA Division III policies require drug testing for athletes who qualify for championship competition, such as football playoffs.

Todd Strop resigned last month after three seasons as UW-Stout football coach. Two of his assistants have also departed. The school named assistant coach Duey Naatz as interim head coach while it searches for a permanent replacement.