Duke University Toughens Its Drug Testing Policy for Student-Athletes

Diverse Issues in Higher Education, March 9, 2006 | Go to article overview

Duke University Toughens Its Drug Testing Policy for Student-Athletes


DURHAM. N.C.

Duke University has strengthened its policy for student-athletes who test positive for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, school officials announced recently.

The new policy, which goes into effect immediately, states that any student-athlete who tests positive for anabolic steroids, blood doping or masking agents will be suspended from athletic participation for one year; a second offense would result in the termination of eligibility.

The policy also calls for evaluation, treatment and counseling for any student-athlete who tests positive for any NCAA-banned substance other than steroids. A second offense would result in a student-athlete's suspension for a minimum of 50 percent of a season; a third violation would result in a permanent ban from competition.

The penalties for nonperformance enhancing drugs remain essentially the same as the university's previous policy. But the old policy did not distinguish between "street" drugs and steroids, while the new one takes a "zero tolerance" stance toward steroids, says Duke law professor James E. Coleman Jr., who headed the committee that recommended the changes. Steroids, he says, undermine the integrity of athletic competition.

"When athletes take steroids to cheat, they not only do potential damage to their health, but they gain an unfair competitive advantage," says Chris Kennedy, senior associate director of athletics.

Following the example of several professional sports leagues, including the NFL and the NBA, the new university policy also treats the use of masking agents, the refusal to submit to testing or attempts to manipulate a drug test as a positive test for steroids, Coleman says. "This eliminates any benefit for a student using steroids to skip a test and any incentive for a student using street drugs to skip a test," he says.

The new policy also calls for unannounced drug testing for all student-athletes on Duke's 26 intercollegiate teams, and says that students are responsible for all substances in their bodies, including any nutritional and dietary supplements that may violate the university's antidoping policy. The policy does allow student-athletes to appeal a violation, but they may not appeal solely on the grounds that they unwittingly used a product that contained a banned substance. …

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