The last few weeks have been pretty big ones at UCLA, where there was both a birthday and a birth day.
UCLA football turned 68 years old. Break out the balloons.
UCLA drug testing was born. Break out in a sweat?
“There are some people who are going to have to change their life styles,” said Joe Goebel, a senior center on the Bruin football team.
For the first time since 1919, when UCLA began putting students into football uniforms, school athletes are being tested for possible drug use. It is hoped that the comprehensive education and testing program will produce a drug-free environment for athletes.
Is this possible?
Like many other National Collegiate Athletic Assn. schools, UCLA believes it’s worth shooting for. The NCAA itself has a new drug policy that will be in effect before the football bowl games. If an athlete is tested and discovered to have used a drug that is on its list of banned substances, that player will be prohibited from playing in the bowl game.
After Feb. 1, the NCAA penalty will become even more severe. The team the offending athlete plays for will be ineligible. There is a chance that the NCAA may soften that stance at a meeting in January, but for now, the law of the land is fairly harsh, so many schools, including UCLA, are embarking on a mission that is not only new but also costly and perhaps confusing. Yet few believe it’s not worth the risks.
“I am really upset that it does go into my private life--and the life of a student-athlete is very stressful--but it doesn’t even take into consideration family problems or anything, just drug testing,” senior quarterback Matt Stevens said.
“But what makes me for it is how it would affect the little kids who see us and then might be affected. If they know that Matt Stevens doesn’t do drugs and they can look up to me or somebody else on our team, then I’m in favor of it.”
Football players became the first group of about 700 UCLA athletes to participate in the program when they were tested during physical examinations before fall practice began.
Here is how the testing works at UCLA:
Urine specimens are collected at the UCLA School of Medicine and coded for identification. The team doctor receives the results of the tests and notifies the athlete if a test is positive. The coaches are not told the names of any athletes who have tested positive, only the number of specimens tested and the number of positive samples.
At this point, any athlete who tested positive can use the services of the counseling program provided by the staff of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.
All athletes with positive first samples are later re-tested, as are several other team members selected at random, which helps ensure confidentiality. If an athlete’s urine sample again tests positive, the athlete can ask for a re-test of that specimen or give another specimen. Mandatory counseling is called for, and refusal to participate could mean suspension from athletics.
After the second positive result, the coach is notified. Parents, spouses or guardians can be notified only with the consent of the athlete or as otherwise permitted by law. Any athlete who does not represent an “unreasonable hazard” to himself or other athletes is allowed to continue playing until a third specimen is obtained.
If there is a third positive test, the athlete is immediately suspended and there is a possibility that his athletic scholarship will not be renewed.
So basically, the game they’re playing at UCLA is three-strikes-and-you’re-out. Football Coach Terry Donahue thinks that’s about one strike too many.
“I thought three were too many chances,” Donahue said. “I would have preferred two, but I wasn’t on the task force.”
One of the persons who was on the task force defended the program’s three-step procedure.
“Our program is designed not necessarily to grab kids by the neck and throw them out the door, but to be helpful to them,” said Judith Holland, UCLA director of women’s athletics and a member of the 15-person task force that came up with recommendations for the program, which they presented to Chancellor Charles Young.
The cost of the UCLA program is estimated at $125,000 for its first year. The entire tab is to be picked up by the chancellor’s office and not the athletic department, because, Holland said, the issue is regarded as a university issue.
Holland said that UCLA estimates the testing cost at $100 per athlete. That could bring the total for all testing up to $85,000 if there were a number of second and third tests. The educational program at the Student Psychological Services on campus is budgeted at $15,000. The same amount is set aside for counseling. In addition, Holland said that UCLA plans to spend $10,000 to research the reactions and attitudes of the athletes who were part of the first-year program.
There are 62 drugs on the banned-substance list at UCLA, including heroin, morphine, amphetamine, cocaine, PCP, marijuana and Quaaludes. Also on the list are 13 anabolic steroids, artificial hormones used to promote strength and increase muscle.
In the Pac-10, UCLA joins a rather incomplete list of schools testing their athletes for drugs. Stanford, Washington and Washington State have no drug programs. Arizona, Oregon and Oregon State have drug programs, but they do not test for steroids. Donahue believes that not testing for steroids is a serious loophole in any school’s drug program.
“Steroids give a player a distinct competitive advantage that could affect winning or losing a game,” he said. “Not testing for steroids is absolutely ridiculous.”
There is yet another side to the drug-testing issue that may not be as controversial as steroids but is much more confusing. It is the issue of which substances are banned. The NCAA has one list, and the schools tend to have their own.
For instance, the NCAA bans such over-the-counter medicines as Contac, Dristan and Nyquil. If any of these substances are discovered in testing an athlete before a championship event or a bowl game, that athlete is banned from competition. And remember, after Feb. 1, that athlete’s entire team is banned.
“I can just imagine getting sick, taking some kind of cough medicine, then having to forfeit the Rose Bowl,” Stevens said. “It sounds to me like it’s just one of those crazy things the NCAA makes up.”
Holland said that UCLA’s list of illegal substances does not include such over-the-counter drugs but that each student-athlete is made aware of the NCAA’s list during educational sessions. Athletic trainers at UCLA will provide medicines not on the NCAA’s banned list, she said.
Of course, all this is going to take a little getting used to. But at UCLA and among most of the Pac-10 schools, drug testing appears to be here to stay, or until the NCAA says otherwise.
“These are the rules we have now,” Goebel said. “If you can’t deal with your problem, then here’s what happens--you’re excused. Not from your right to play football, but from your privilege to play football. When you’re out of college football, if you want to do drugs then, well, fine. Then you’ve got a whole new set of problems. And they’re going to be a lot worse than the ones you think you’ve got now.”
DRUG TESTING IN THE PAC-10
School Drug Test Test for for Athletes Steroids Arizona Yes No Arizona State Yes Yes California Yes Yes Oregon Yes No Oregon State Yes No Stanford No No UCLA Yes Yes USC Yes Yes Washington No No Washington State No No