University considers drug testing

The development of a potential athletic drug education program is the subject of ongoing conversations between the athletic department and other groups on campus at John Brown University.

Todd Bowden, head athletic trainer, has been in the process of drafting a drug philosophy specifically for the athletic department. This semester, Bowden has taken the policy in draft form to the athletic team coaches and to student development personnel for their feedback.

Athletics director Robyn Daugherty said this is something which has been suggested by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes, but that the University’s current general drug and alcohol week would suffice. Members of the University’s athletics department are simply trying to decide if they should take the next step, she said.

“If we do go through with this, it needs to be systematic and professional,” she added.

Recent meetings have been looking at the strengths, challenges and weaknesses of the rough draft that has been written, Daugherty continued. Those involved are considering if this is something the University needs or wants.

Steve Beers, vice president of student development, said the athletic department is doing its best to stay ahead of the curve on drug policies. It appears that the NAIA is heading in the direction of drug testing, and the University wants to be prepared for that.

Beers said the University has the right to test athletes because most of them are privileged to have performance-based scholarships. One consideration University personnel are weighing is the potential impact of drug testing on the budget.

“We are working on how to manage drug testing without being too intrusive in students’ lives,” Beers said. “We don’t want students to feel as though they are guilty until proven innocent.”
Daugherty said the coaches had given good input on the draft. There were no opinions that “slammed the brakes” on the process, but the feedback did give the drafters some things to think about.

Bowden said the coaches over all saw having a drug policy as something that needed to be done. He added there would be more meetings with Student Development to go over specifics of the plan at the end of the month.

As part of a drug education and prevention program, Bowden said, the department would probably utilize random drug testing of people from each sports team.

“This is not something that is designed to get people in trouble,” Bowden said. “Instead, we want it to help us intervene before something becomes a big problem.”

Bowden added that the goal is for any program implemented to involve multiple parts of the University community. If and when a policy is put in place, athletes and their parents would have to sign it before participating in sports.

John Miglarese, head men’s soccer coach, said he has never had a problem with drug testing at the NCAA schools he has helped coach at. He added that it provides an extra measure of safe guard and accountability to help the athletes, whether drug abuse is actually a problem or not.

“Drug use is rampant in all of society,” Miglarese said. “No one is immune.”

Daugherty said there are still several steps left in the process before any final conclusion is reached. In the end, anything the athletic department decides on would need to be approved by the University cabinet.

“We are not going to rush this process,” Daugherty said. “If it is not ready, we will hold off on implementing anything. Or if we decide it is not necessary we will can it.”