The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Athletes to face tougher drug tests

As the spring sports season approaches, student-athletes across the country are facing stricter drug tests aimed at detecting the use of illegal substances. With steroid use by professional athletes dominating the headlines last year, university athletic directors are particularly vigilant this time of year.

St. John’s is one of the many schools that have a routine system for drug testing.

“We do random testing throughout the year,” said Chris Monasch, the University’s athletic director.

Stony Brook University recently instituted a new policy of randomly testing athletes on all 20 of its varsity sports teams At present, St. John’s randomly selects teams and athletes to test but has no plans to test all of its varsity athletes. The University does review its policy annually, according to Mark Fratto, director of athletic communications.

While a number of tests are administered because of recently reported abuse of anabolic-androgenic drugs, commonly referred to as steroids, other drug use can also be detected.

“Most [college] programs are focusing on drugs of abuse, said Frank Uryzasz, head of the NCAA-sanctioned National Center for Drug-Free Sport, in the Jan. 6 issue of Newsday. “That’s where they have most of their problems. Alcohol is the biggest, followed by marijuana.”

St. John’s, along with its routinely scheduled testing, also will test athletes for cause, according to Monasch.

“If we notice a change in behavior or a change in physical makeup [we can test for cause],” he said.

Steroid use gained prominence in the media last year and caused many universities to increase their vigilance over drug testing.Use of steroids can cause liver tumors and cancer, jaundice, fluid retention, high cholesterol and severe acne, according to a report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

In addition, injecting anabolic steroids can increase an athlete’s risk of contracting or transmitting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.

Monasch stated that the University does not believe that there has been serious steroid use, if any at all, by student-athletes.

Along with institutional testing done by individual schools, the NCAA also tests athletes at a number of schools, although they focus mainly on schools with Division I football teams, according to the National Center for Drug-Free Sports.

Tests administered by the NCAA are done randomly and athletes, as well as the institutions, are given little notice of when testing will occur.

Athletes who are randomly selected to participate in testing are required to submit a urine sample in the presence of an administrator of the same sex. A witness is required to ensure that the athlete provides his or her own sample and does not have an opportunity to provide a sample of someone else’s urine to escape detection.

Hydration levels are also moderated prior to NCAA drug tests in hopes of avoiding diluted samples. If a sample is found to be too diluted to give an accurate reading, the student-athlete is required to remain in the presence of the administrator until an acceptable sample can be delivered, according to Jim Gossett, associate athletic director for sports medicine at Columbia University, in the Oct. 6, 2005 issue of the Columbia Daily Spectator.

Consequences for failing a drug test vary by university. St. John’s bases its penalties on the drug found in the sample and how any previous offenses the athlete may have, said Monasch. The punishment would be harsher if someone tested positive for a more serious drug, such as cocaine, Monasch said, than for a lesser drug.

A first offense usually results in counseling, according to Monasch. Testing positive a second time results in suspension from playing and further offenses can result in being removed from the team.

“Our first concern is to help,” Monasch said. “If it’s a serious drug, we might step in [sooner].”

Stony Brook’s policy is a little tougher than St. John’s. A first offense at Stony Brook leads to the immediate suspension of the student-athlete for one week from all athletic activities. The student is also suspended from the next scheduled competition as well as 10 percent of all remaining intercollegiate contests, according to the Stony Brook University drug policy from the Stony Brook University Department of Athletics.

The student is also required to attend a mandatory assessment conducted by either a university substance abuse counselor or a local treatment agency. Following a second positive test, the athlete is suspended for two weeks from all athletic activities.

If the student-athlete tests positive on a third drug test, the student is immediately and permanently suspended from all future athletic participation. Athletic grant-in-aid is cancelled at the end of the academic term in which the student’s third positive test occurred.

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