Voices of Male Athletes on Drug Use, Drug Testing, and the Existing Order in Intercollegiate Athletics

By Diacin, Michael J.; Parks, Janet B. et al. | Journal of Sport Behavior, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Voices of Male Athletes on Drug Use, Drug Testing, and the Existing Order in Intercollegiate Athletics


Diacin, Michael J., Parks, Janet B., Allison, Pamela C., Journal of Sport Behavior


Although contemporary media accounts and heightened attention from sport governing bodies might imply otherwise, drug use by competitive athletes is not a new phenomenon. For many centuries, athletes have sought advantage in their quest for victory. One avenue to such advantage is through the use of performance-enhancing substances (Eichner, 1997; Tricker & Connolly, 1997; Worsnop, 1991). The current international anxiety about drug use among athletes began in the 1950s. At that time, concern focused primarily on Soviet athletes' use of anabolic steroids in the 1956 World Games in Moscow. During the 1960s and 1970s, sport governing bodies such as the International Amateur Athletic Federation and the International Olympic Committee banned specific drugs. Athletes were tested for prohibited substances at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and at the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela (Anderson, Albrecht, McKeag, Hough, & McGrew, 1991; Tricker & Connolly, 1997).

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) banned anabolic steroids in 1973 and began random testing of student-athletes for performance-enhancing substances and recreational drugs in 1986 (Schneider& Morris, 1993; Tricker & Connolly, 1997). Originally, drug testing occurred only at Division I football bowl games and at some NCAA championships. Since 1990, however, football players in Divisions I-A, I-AA, and II, as well as Division I indoor and outdoor track and field athletes, have been subject to year-round testing. In addition, all NCAA student-athletes are subject to drug testing at NCAA championship events and at post-season bowl games (NCAA, 1998).

Framing the Controversy

The NCAA drug-testing program has been controversial since its inception. One source of controversy stems from the program protocol that allows random testing of athletes, even those not suspected of drug use. Such suspicionless testing is frequently considered intrusive and in violation of athletes' Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches (Sack, 1991). The NCAA random testing program has been challenged in the courts, with mixed results. In University of Colorado v. Derdeyn (1993), the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the rulings of lower courts that, "in the absence of voluntary consents, CU's random, suspicionless urinalysis drug testing of student-athletes violates the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution" (University of Colorado v. Derdeyn, 1993, p. 930). On the other hand, in Hill v. NCAA (1994), the California Supreme Court reversed lower courts by ruling in favor of the NCAA. In support of this judgment, the court cited the NCAA's interest in fair competition and the health a nd safety of athletes as well as athletes' acceptance of diminished privacy with regard to other aspects of participation (e.g., locker rooms, physical examinations) (Hill v. NCAA, 1994).

A second controversy associated with the NCAA drug-testing program is related to the specific drugs for which athletes are tested. The NCAA currently conducts tests for performance-enhancing substances, such as steroids and amphetamines, and for recreational drugs, such as marijuana (NCAA, 1998). Because any type of drug can be harmful to athletes, supporters of testing for both performance-enhancing substances and recreational drugs maintain that doing so is necessary in order to safeguard athletes' health (Worsnop, 1991). The opposing view is that athletes should be held accountable only for substances that would give them an unfair advantage over their competitors and that testing for substances other than those identified as performance-enhancing is both unnecessary and in violation of the privacy of the athletes (Pyne, 1991; Sack, 1991).

A third issue associated with NCAA drug testing involves the reliability of test results. Some substances (e.g., birth control pills) are neither recreational nor performance enhancing, but can cause positive test results, thereby rendering an athlete ineligible for participation (Worsnop, 1991). …

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