Pass the blunt—I mean ball

Ferris cracks down on street drug testing for student athletes

The athletic department has stepped up its game when it comes to the drug testing program for student athletes.

In August 2012, the refined drug and alcohol testing program was put into effect. This policy states, “Student athletes can be tested for substances including but not limited to the NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] drug list…For example, not on the NCAA banned drug list is alcohol, but the University’s Appendix B prohibits the use and/or abuse of alcohol if it is used illegally and/or if it could have an effect on the student-athlete…”

According to Director of Athletics Perk Weisenburger, the policy was put in place to maintain the goal of the championship mentality.

“If a scholarship and a spot on an athletic team are not that important to them, then they are free to do what they want to do. I mean, it’s illegal, but this is where young people learn, grow up and mature, or this is a place where they have trouble with that,” Weisenburger said. “To be a championship student athlete, you have to be very disciplined, and this is a discipline we didn’t want to take lightly.”

The policy set by Weisenburger with consultation of head coaches and approval by the Vice President Office of Administration and Finance states athletes may be chosen at random for drug testing at any time.

The process will test student athletes for street drug substances such as marijuana, cocaine and alcohol. A professional organization, Drug Free Sport, administers the testing. Drug Free Sport also administers the testing done by the NCAA, Big Ten, NFL, MLB, NBA and many others.

“We put this policy in place not to necessarily catch athletes. We had testing before, but it wasn’t administered,” Weisenburger said. “Student athletes diluting the tests could get away with it. It was really more educational than it was punitive. Not enough people are serious about their education, their scholarship or the championship mentality that we want to have here.”

Each of the drug tests performed costs about $110. The money is taken from the athletic budget.

The process used during the testing is a sample will be taken and split right in front of the student athlete, providing an A sample and a B sample. The A sample will be sent away to be tested and the B sample will be sealed off immediately.

If the A sample comes back positive and a student athlete disagrees with the results, Sample B is tested. The result of Sample B will then give the proper feedback needed to make a decision.

If a student athlete tests positive, there are three levels of consequences. The first time a student athlete tests positive, he/she will lose the ability to compete in 10 percent of games. The second time a student athlete tests positive, he/she will lose the ability to compete in 25 percent of games. The third time a student athlete tests positive, it will result in notification of parents, required counseling, eligibility for follow-up testing and permanent suspension from athletic participation at Ferris.

Loss of scholarship can happen at any time depending on the history of the student athlete.

Aly Brecht, Ferris senior on the volleyball team and in technical and professional communication, thinks the updated drug testing policy is a good idea.

“Drug testing for any kind of drug is always a good idea,” Brecht said. “If you made a choice to be a student athlete, you should take responsibility for making the right choices in and out of season. A lot of people don’t think they will get caught, but that turns around to bite them in the ass.”

Although the program has become more stringent when it comes to drug testing, there is a safe harbor component that assists athletes in a non-punitive way.

“We understand young people are going to make mistakes and there is going to be peer pressure to enter in, so that’s why we have some counseling and some other measures in the policy,” Weisenburger said. “There is a safe harbor where they could come in before a test and say, ‘I have a problem’ and then we can get them help without it having to be strike one.”

Weisenburger continued, “Drug use is an individual choice and most of our teams are not individual teams. You’re a member of a team, so there is a lot more at stake here. Our school invests a lot of money into these programs. Winning is not everything, but it is something we take very seriously and we think this was a needed step from the standpoint of helping our programs, but also helping our student athletes.”