Drugs and sports don’t mix

Whether it’s recreational or to enhance performance, USF administration and staff are responsible to make an effort to deter student-athlete drug use. USF must comply with NCAA guidelines on drug use or athletes will be sidelined or face suspension, which could reach up to a year.

At least once a year, the USF athletic department provides a seminar that addresses drug use to athletes. Attendance is mandatory unless the student is in class or at a competition.

“Last year, some baseball players who had trouble with drugs came to talk about their experiences,”said Greg Thiel, coach of cross country/track and field. “This year’s seminar is part of the University Lecture Series and it’s called ‘Ecstasy, It’s Not a State of Mind.’ They always try to focus on what’s popular at the time.”

Along with regulations imposed by the athletic department, most teams have their own stipulations regarding the use of drugs, which includes alcohol.

“As with any school, I think the No. 1 drug is alcohol,” Jose Fernandez, head coach of the women’s basketball team, said. “Our players can’t consume alcohol 48 hours before a game or 24 hours before a practice, which covers us through the week. But the team has to be adult enough to police themselves, especially when they have their days off.”

The use of tobacco products by players and coaches is prohibited at all USF sanctioned events, including practices and games. To ensure that other drugs are not abused, the university has its own system of drug testing.

Steve Horton, associate director of athletics, said student-athletes are tested at random on a regular basis during the academic year.

“The university has a three-strike system. If a test comes back positive once, the student has to go through some type of counseling, and if they get a second positive they’re suspended,” Horton said.

Regular retesting afterward is another consequence of a positive result. Should a student receive a third positive test, they would be prohibited from participating in USF athletics.

“They’d be out forever, but luckily we’ve never had to go that far,” Horton said.

Horton added that the NCAA has its own drug testing system separate from that of USF, with much harsher consequences.

“The NCAA only tests each school once a year and they test if a team makes it to the championships,” Horton said. “But they only have a two-strike policy. After one positive, the athlete is out for a year. If he or she gets a second positive, they’re out for good.”

Though dietary supplements are permissible when used correctly, athletes are urged by the NCAA and university alike to have the supplement checked out by a certified licensed athletic trainer or team physician. In many cases, these products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and may contain agents that produce a positive test result.

An NCAA study conducted in 1997 found that the use of amphetamines and cocaine by college athletes has increased, while alcohol, smokeless tobacco and psychedelic drug usage is down.

A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that male student-athletes binge drink 16 percent more than non-athletes do, as do 19 percent of female athletes.

While the national statistics of drug use rise, USF is staying stagnant without much of an issue.

“If a problem comes up, we’ll deal with it then,” Thiel said. “I’ve been here 12 years, and call it luck or just good leadership, but it hasn’t been a big problem in the athletic department or on the campus as a whole.”