Athletic department orders drug tests

All athletes at John Brown University will soon have to take a drug test.

For the last two weeks, athletes at John Brown University have taken drug education courses. These courses, required by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes, are a precursor to the mandatory drug testing that will begin in the 2017-2018 school year. But why now?

Athletic trainer Holly Bingham said the requirement came “down from the top,” and that this was the first time the NAIA has made drug testing a mandate for competing.

A three-year sponsorship agreement between the NAIA and The National Center for Drug Free Sport was recently mandated. This agreement is based on an online tutorial program that is “designed to introduce the substances banned by the NAIA,” according to the NAIA’s website.

Bingham said that these online modules are based on seasons of competition. Each year, athletes will have to take another course that will provide them with more information and refresh what they have learned before. Because this year is the first time for drug education, athletes are required to do the modules for both their current and previous seasons at once.

Each module is set up as interactively as possible, requiring students to take a quiz in order to demonstrate retention of the information.

Clare Holden, member of the tennis team, said a module takes about half an hour to 45 minutes to complete. If athletes fail a quiz, they have to retake it.

Soccer player, Lauren Tonkovich, said that even though the modules were time consuming, they were interesting and helped her to think more about nutrition and what she is putting into her body, particularly in terms of pre and post-workout foods.

She also said that most of the banned supplements were nothing new as the University’s covenant also bans the use of drugs and alcohol.

Austin Fox, recent transfer basketball player, said that while the program is good, “there could be a better way to give the information to collegiate athletes.” Fox suggested a more straightforward approach.

Tonkovich, Holden and Fox were surprised about the restriction on caffeine intake. Tonkovich said she had not been aware that high levels of caffeine are detrimental to one’s health. Fox mentioned the need for caffeine in order to get through a normal college routine.

Even over-the-counter drugs could cause athletes to test positive. Athletes will also need to inform their trainer about any medication they take.

While there is no hard date for the start of actual drug testing, Bingham said that all the  necessary preparations being made.

Bingham said that the University’s goal for this year is to successfully get all athletes through the training courses. While there has been trouble with portals not working, around 90  percent of all athletes have successfully completed their training.

Holden said that last year she did not believe rumors that athletes would be tested for drugs. Now that it is official, Holden said she is “fine with it,” and that it is a good thing they’re doing it.

“We may not be [Division I or Division II], but we’re still competitive athletes. We still want to win,” Holden said.

She also mentioned that many athletes have scholarships, saying that these scholarships may be a “temptation to pull ahead” using performance enhancing drugs.

The measures the NAIA is taking will “help to make it fair.”

Bingham said that overall reactions towards the testing have been fairly positive.

At this time, there is no set policy for what happens if a student athlete tests positive on a drug test. Bingham said that policy will be written before the actual tests begin.