Wednesday, July 24

Wang’s Word: Weed out feeble drug policies by focusing on coaches, self-disclosure


According to the NCAA drug policy, a positive drug test result for marijuana will result in the athlete being suspended for half of their sport's season. The organization also allows UCLA to implement and enforce its own drug-testing program, however. (Creative Commons photo by Jay Denney via Flickr)

According to the NCAA drug policy, a positive drug test result for marijuana will result in the athlete being suspended for half of their sport's season. The organization also allows UCLA to implement and enforce its own drug-testing program, however. (Creative Commons photo by Jay Denney via Flickr)


Dykstra Hall, eighth floor.

I saw my fair share of football players visit the local marijuana dealer’s room last year, so I probably have a good idea of what was going on.

But did anyone really care?

No one failed a NCAA-administered drug test for a street drug – a category that includes heroin, marijuana, THC and synthetic cannabinoids. That single infraction carries a suspension for half the season.

Granted, the NCAA only tests for street drugs at its championship events and bowl games, so it’s painfully obvious why UCLA football players were safe in 2016. Moreover, some people are bound to fall through the cracks since the governing body doesn’t test everyone.

The NCAA website states: “Each NCAA member school is responsible for determining whether to establish an institutional drug-testing program, at which time the school would be responsible for determining applicable penalties.”

This pretty much gives UCLA the autonomy to do whatever it wants to when its athletes fail school-mandated drug tests, and, predictably so, the school is lenient. Athletes aren’t penalized for their first positive test, are only suspended one game for their second positive result and the suspension is increased to 10 percent of the athlete’s season for a third positive result.

For such a small punishment, UCLA Athletics is better off not randomly testing for marijuana at all.

Yes, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. But so is buying and consuming alcohol for people under the age of 21, and UCLA doesn’t test for blood alcohol content on Thursday nights.

Drug testing’s purpose is to ensure athletes aren’t taking performance-enhancing drugs, and marijuana does not fit into that category. Penalizing athletes for recreational drugs, and a relatively harmless one at that, doesn’t contribute toward ensuring the integrity of sports.

Instead of mandating punishments for positive marijuana tests, UCLA should give coaches the final say in all disciplinary measures – Jim Mora, Cori Close or Steve Alford possess the wherewithal to identify if any of their players are marijuana users as well as determine the appropriate punishments for them. This system will place a lot more responsibility and trust in every head coach at UCLA to put the well-being of their players above the success of the team, and the coaches already serve as role models and teachers for hundreds of young men and women – dealing with marijuana use is merely another extension of that.

UCLA’s current policy already allows for self-disclosure of a possible substance abuse problem, in which case positive tests don’t go on record until the athlete finishes the required counseling sessions.

If the athletic department truly wants to promote a drug-free environment like it says in the student-athlete handbook, it should encourage self-disclosure and focus on rehabilitation instead of relying on a lottery-based system to catch offenders.

Maybe then all the positive results will come from on the field instead of in the lab.

 

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Senior staff

Wang is a Daily Bruin senior staffer on the football and men's basketball beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the men's tennis, women's tennis and women's soccer beats. Wang was previously a reporter for the men's tennis beat.


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