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NCAA drug testing acts as an equalizing and accountability factor among student athletics

For athletes subjected to National Collegiate Athletic Association rules and regulations, not being “pee shy” is just another one of the requirements of being a student-athlete. For some, the process can be nerve-racking, and at the very least, urinating in a cup in front of a designated drug tester takes some of the glory out of making it through unscathed.

Since 1986, the NCAA has been drug testing at championships, and in 1991, it began year-round random testing for Division I and II institutions. Over the years, the organization has committed to keeping collegiate athletes drug free.

According to the NCAA website: “Approximately $4.5 million is invested each year to collect and analyze approximately 13,500 samples through the NCAA’s national drug-testing program, and more than $1.5 million is provided each year to assist drug-education programs at its member colleges and universities.”

Testing positive on an NCAA mandated drug test will result in a loss of 25 percent of an athlete’s total eligibility from the day the athlete tests positive, which is one whole year for most. In addition, each university is able to instill further consequences outlined in the university drug policy and at the discretion of coaches, athletic trainers, school administrations and athletic directors.

Even though each university’s policy and individual athlete punishment will differ, the banned substances and NCAA drug testing procedures are straightforward.

“The NCAA drug testing is difficult because we’ll get an email like the day before saying, ‘We’ll be there at 6 a.m. and these are the people you need to have there.’ It is a required urination test and they have to do it, and it has to be a certain way…and if you oversleep or just don’t show up, it’s an automatic positive,” said Assistant Athletic Trainer Matty Richardson.

At Division I and II schools, NCAA drug tests are typically held twice a year and administered by individuals unaffiliated with the university. According to the NCAA website: “NCAA drug-test samples are collected and processed by an independent certified collection agency. The samples are collected and analyzed under a strict, published protocol using laboratories certified by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which establishes Olympic anti-doping policies.”

The athletes are selected at random, and the number of athletes tested from each team varies on the size of different teams.

Results from the National Study of Substance Use Trends Among NCAA College Student Athletes show that 18.9 percent of all the NCAA athletes have undergone NCAA drug testing, and 23 percent were tested by their own university. Roughly 440,000 students in 23 different sports at 1,200 educational institutions are under NCAA supervision. Out of that group, 11,000 Division I and II athletes in all sports will be randomly tested for steroids, diuretics and masking agents, peptide hormones and ephedrine each year.

If students feel that they have had a false positive, the NCAA does allow for appeals and then adjusts the punishment accordingly.

The athletic department at Drake administers its own random drug tests. Drake student-athletes are tested based on suspicion or for one of its twice-a-year inspections, but the school also administers required tests for each sport.

“We have a database of all the names,” Richardson said. “We put in a percentage of how many students we want to test overall and then they break it down by team. Every team has someone that is drug tested, but obviously football will have more than a team like cheerleading.”

The Drake sports medicine department chooses to alternate between saliva swabs or traditional methods to verify that the athletes are drug-free.

“I think the hard part for Drake athletes and the NCAA is the anabolic steroids and protein because it can test positive if you are doing an immense amount of them (protein),” Richardson said. “I think they freak out about some of the stuff they probably shouldn’t be doing over the summer, like the steroids, that some sports do it more than others.”

The threat alone of NCAA drug testing influences athlete’s decisions regarding substance use and abuse. According to the National Study of Substance Use Trends Among NCAA College Student Athletes, 10 percent of student-athletes in all divisions cite fear of getting drug tested as their main reason for not using marijuana. For that same reason, four percent refrained from anabolic steroids and 2.7 percent from narcotics.

To make the process at little less nerve-racking and ambiguous for Drake and all other NCAA student-athletes, there are a variety of resources for checking if a substance is banned. They can check NCAA.org, drugfreesport.com, godrakebulldogs.com or check with the sports medicine teams at their respective universities.

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