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NCAA Div-III to Reduce Punishment for Positive Drug Tests
Effective Aug. 1, 2014, Division III athletes who test positive for illegal non-performance enhancing drugs (PED’s), such as marijuana, will face reduced punishment. Previously, athletes were declared athletically ineligible for one year. Under the rule change, that penalty will be reduced to half a year.
Chairman of the Division III President’s Council, President Jack Ohle, said the reduced penalty would allow the student testing positive for non-PED’s to be educated on the dangers of using drugs, while remaining in attendance at their respective university.
“In reviewing the legislation, both the Management and the Presidents Council felt that, first and foremost, Division III institutions are centered on student education,” Ohle said.
According to Ohle, both councils had raised questions about if the current punishment was “seriously taking into consideration the students welfare regarding their education about drugs.”
Ohle said the council determined that reducing the pentalty to half a year “would enable the student to remain at the institution” and learn about the “importance of staying drug-free” through a task force either provided by the university, or through an outside task force.
“The Competitive Safeguards Committee found that, in following up with some students who had tested positive, especially for non-performance enhancers, (the current rule) was causing students to drop out of school,” NCAA Division III Vice President Dan Dutcher said.
Webster’s current Drug, Alcohol and Tobacco Policy requires student-athletes caught with possession or consumption of drugs or alcohol to be educated about the drugs and alcohol either through writing, counseling or going through Professional Assessment. The response depends on the number of offenses acquired.
Representatives from Division III universities discussed and then voted on the proposal to pass the rule change at the NCAA Convention on Jan. 15-18 in San Diego, Calif.
Amy Bommarito, the Webster athletics coordinator, represented Webster at the convention. She said the proposal was one of 10 different proposals the NCAA opened for discussion and a vote.
Webster University Interim Athletic Director Merry Graf said Webster voted against the proposal.
Graf said, the NCAA released the list of proposals up for vote during the upcoming NCAA convention in December.
“I understand what (the NCAA was) trying to do, but we had talked about it with our SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee) group. They were not in favor of this, so (Webster University) did not vote for the proposal,” Graf said.
Webster does not currently drug test because the university is not able to afford the tests.
“(A drug testing program) is something that is on our list,” Graf said.
During her discussion with the student athlete groups at other schools in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC), Graf said the general consensus of the student athletes was that the punishment should not have been reduced.
Graf said the student-athletes of SAAC felt like a non-PED, such as marijuana, is “still an illegal drug whether it’s helping them perform better in competition or not” and that the punishment for testing positive for those drugs should be “drastic.”
Senior mid-fielder Jordan Fosburgh of the Webster women’s soccer team, is president of Webster’s SAAC and co-president of the SLIAC SAAC. She said when an athlete is a part of a team, “it’s their responsibility to make good decisions” on and off the field.
“One person can affect an entire team,” Fosburgh said. “We understand they should be forgiven but it’s a team sport, and if they want to be a part of the team, they shouldn’t make (bad) decisions.”
Men’s Track & Field athlete and Webster SAAC member Greg Fletcher said the Webster SAAC group felt that the punishment should not be reduced because it is “unfair to the athletes who didn’t use drugs.”
Fletcher, a junior, also said that during the discussions, some schools brought up their fear of losing student-athletes.
“They were more worried about athlete retention than the punishment,” Fletcher said. “Since NCAA Division III is non-scholarship, there isn’t a lot to keep athletes in sports except for the love of sport.”
Dutcher said the NCAA only drug tests Division III student-athletes during the championship round of the sport in-season. Division III does not require schools to drug test their athletes during the regular season. Division III universities that drug test their athletes do so on a volunteer basis.
The last time a student-athlete failed a drug test was in 2012, when the Webster baseball team made it to the NCAA Division III World Series, according to Athletic Trainer Martin Fields.
Fields said that athlete only failed the test because he was on a prescription drug that was on the restricted list of drugs issued by the NCAA. Once the NCAA was sent the documentation from the doctor explaining why the athlete was prescribed the drug, the student athlete was cleared of any violation.