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College Sports, Division I, Education

NCAA Investigates Drug Testing Allegations at Syracuse University

Syracuse University self-reported alleged violations of the institution’s drug policy “more than a year ago” (according to ESPN.com). According to media reports, the NCAA enforcement staff has initiated an inquiry into the allegations. Further, it was reported, during Syracuse’s three-month investigation, school officials learned the institution’s men’s basketball program failed to follow the drug policy when it permitted ineligible student-athletes to participate in practice and competition over the previous ten years. A Yahoo! Sports report contends at least 10 student-athletes since 2001 had tested positive for a banned recreational substance or substances, but were permitted to practice and compete instead of being suspended. Syracuse won the men’s basketball national championship in 2003.

Yahoo! Sports’s review of Syracuse’s student-athlete drug policies revealed:

“They detailed the athletic department’s protocol for handling positive tests, including a penalty structure for a player’s first, second and third offense. Syracuse’s drug policy calls for players to be automatically suspended from practice or playing after testing positive a second time. Each penalty called for the head coach to be notified and, in turn, alert a player’s parents or guardians. After the first offense, an athlete was required to attend drug counseling and rehabilitation sessions. In addition, the policy called for the offending athlete to be tested on a regular basis for the remainder of his or her eligibility. Penalties for a second positive test included automatic suspension from practice and playing, plus mandatory drug counseling, and a player could not return to the team without being cleared by a counselor as being drug free. For a third positive test, a player was subject to termination of eligibility and expulsion from school, barring special intervention by the athletic director. The policy stated that after a third failed test, the athletic director had the option of extending a “one-time conditional grace period” in which the athlete was subject to specific terms and conditions for corrective action during a predetermined period of time.”

For interested readers seeking extra-credit, the following are some NCAA legislation relating to banned substances:

Bylaw 10.1-(f): Unethical Conduct. Unethical conduct by a prospective or enrolled student-athlete or a current or former institutional staff member, which includes any individual who performs work for the institution or the athletics department even if he or she does not receive compensation for such work, may include, but is not limited to, the following: (f) Knowing involvement in providing a banned substance or impermissible supplement to student-athletes, or knowingly providing medications to student-athletes contrary to medical licensure, commonly accepted standards of care in sports medicine practice, or state and federal law.  This provision shall not apply to banned substances for which the student-athlete has received a medical exception per Bylaw 31.2.3.5; however, the substance must be provided in accordance with medical licensure, commonly accepted standards of care and state or federal law;  (Adopted:  8/4/05, Revised:  5/6/08)

Bylaw 10.2: Knowledge of Use of Banned Drugs. A member institution’s athletics department staff members or others employed by the intercollegiate athletics program who have knowledge of a student-athlete’s use at any time of a substance on the list of banned drugs, as set forth in Bylaw 31.2.3.4, shall follow institutional procedures dealing with drug abuse or shall be subject to disciplinary or corrective action as set forth in Bylaw 19.5.2.2.

To read complete articles and posts on this story, click the following links: Yahoo! Sports (Charles Robinson and Pat Forde); Yahoo! Sports (Dan Wetzel); ESPN.com; and Sporting News.

The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm recommends NCAA member institutions: (a) review athletics drug testing policies and procedures for compliance with NCAA legislation and legal protocols; and (b) ensure (using audits, exit interviews and other methods) institutional personnel are adhering to drug testing policies and procedures.

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.

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