NCAA committee rejects proposal to test for street drugs

INDIANAPOLIS -- A proposal that would have expanded the
NCAA's drug-testing policy to include street drugs was rejected
Wednesday by an NCAA committee. The measure would've imposed strong
sanctions for violators, including a half-season suspension for
first-time offenders.

The decision will not change the program currently implemented
by the NCAA, which includes testing at championship events and
random-year round testing for performance-enhancing drugs such as
steroids. About 10,000 to 11,000 student-athletes are randomly
selected each year for tests. The program was first instituted in

Carolyn Femovich, chairwoman of the Championship and Competition
Cabinet, said committee members did not believe legislation was
necessary since most Division I schools and conferences already
test for street drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine.

"There are a high percentage of schools and conferences that
already have those in place, along with an education program
related to social drugs," Femovich said. "The cabinet felt it was
best left at the institutional level at this time."

While the NCAA will continue to administer other drug tests,
Femovich said the NCAA also has the ability to test for street
drugs at championship events under current guidelines.

Penalties were part of the proposal, too. Besides first-time
offenders missing 50 percent of the season, second-time violators
would have faced a one-year ban and a third offense would have made
the athlete permanently ineligible to compete in the NCAA.

Players could only have been reinstated after the school
provided documentation showing the athlete had passed a subsequent
drug test and attended either an educational or treatment program.

"I think there's an ongoing concern about the health and safety
issue, and I think a lot of people thought this should be
institutional protocol, not NCAA protocol, when it comes to street
drugs," Femovich said.

She also acknowledged there were concerns about the cost, which
estimates put at $825,000.

"We were aware of the cost, so we had to ask ourselves first,
'Does this make sense?"' she said. "So it was about how you
balance the costs."

The committee also discussed concerns about women's teams that
sometimes practice against male players.

Rather than recommending an outright ban, the cabinet approved a
plan asking schools to reconsider the practice. Among the points
Femovich stressed were looking at whether practicing against men
reduced opportunities for women and whether male practice players
had their own medical insurance or were being treated by the
school's training staff.

It also set up a research procedure that could force the cabinet
to reconsider its decision later.

"We want periodic oversight to assess trends and keep an eye on
what's happening in regards to grants-in-aid [scholarships] being
awarded," she said. "We want to keep an eye on this because if we
see certain trends we may have to look at it again."