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Drug Testing News
New drug test policy
set for 'U' athletes
By JAMES JAHNKE
Under new athletics department drug testing policies, MSU
physicians will be able to take samples of a student-athlete's
hair, saliva, blood and other bodily fluids next year.
Previously, only an athlete's urine could be screened for
drugs. But an advisory committee of the Athletic Council added
several stipulations to the department's drug testing policy
earlier this month.
The move was made to bolster an "already strong" set of rules,
said Athletics Director Ron Mason.
"We just looked for things that could be brought up to speed,"
Mason said. "They're not big changes."
The new policies will take effect at the start of the 2003-04
academic year, but athletes have already been given copies of
the changes so they know what to expect when they return in
In addition to broadening the scope of materials that can be
sampled, the new policy also spells out to student-athletes
several long-standing department policies.
For one, athletes who believe they have a substance-abuse
problem can seek help from MSU medical personnel without the
fear of getting penalized.
The option cannot be utilized by an athlete after he or she
has been notified of an impending drug test. Rather, its
intent is to assist players who voluntarily admit they have a
problem and desire counseling.
"We've been doing it for years," said Jeff Monroe, MSU's head
athletic trainer, who is a member of the advisory council.
"It's just never been written down for the student-athlete.
Now they can look it up and see it.
"This is for first-time offenders. It's not an escape clause -
it's purely to help yourself."
Also on the books for the first time is a provision allowing
doctors to hold athletes out of play if drug or alcohol use
has put them at risk for an injury.
Monroe said medical personnel have always had the final say as
to whether an injured athlete can play. The new wording just
makes it official that a doctor can hold out someone impaired
by substance abuse.
"Even if there are no required sanctions for the situation, it
allows a physician to make a decision that's in the best
interest of the individual," Monroe said. "Even on a first
use, if your safety is at risk, you can be put into mandatory
But Mason said, by far, the biggest change to the policy is
the allowing of hair and other samples to be taken.
Hair testing gives a longer glimpse into an individual's
history of substance use. Urine can be free of evidence in
several days, whereas hair stores data for up to three months.
Ultimately, it will be the physician's call as to what sample
will be taken from the athlete.
"It's something other schools have been doing, and it's been
working," Mason said. "It's easier and can be more
Monroe wouldn't say whether the changes to the drug policy had
anything to do with then-junior quarterback Jeff Smoker's
highly publicized substance-abuse problems last semester.
Paul Harker, a senior guard on the MSU football team, said the
Spartans reviewed the changes during a team meeting on Monday
and everyone seemed to be fine with them.
"We know that we're here to play football, be athletes and be
in the best shape we can be," Harker said. "Drugs have no
place here, and I don't think anyone on the team disagrees
"The more we can do to eradicate them, the better. But, to me,
(the changes) were no big deal. Business as usual."