Pubdate: Mon, 28 Oct 2002
Source: Winkler Times (CN MB)
Copyright: 2002 Winkler Times
Author:  Ellie Reimer
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


A Random Drug Testing Program For Student Athletes Is In The Works For 
Garden Valley Collegiate.

Garden Valley School Division superintendent Dom Wilkins says the proposed 
new policy of informed random drug testing of high school athletic team 
members is proactive and is intended to give students one more reason to 
say no to drugs.

"It's a policy that's being worked on jointly by the school, the advisory 
council, the division and senior students," said Wilkins. "The policy is in 
draft form right now. It was approved in principle by the school board at 
their last meeting, to be implemented as a pilot project for this school 
year. It will be evaluated throughout the year and a final decision on 
implementation and any modifications will be made at the end of the school 

Wilkins indicated the written document has been sent to legal counsel for 

"They've assured us verbally that we were okay on this, but we want them to 
see the written document," he said.

Why single out athletes for these random drug tests?

Jurisprudence indicates the policy cannot be imposed on the whole student 
body, says Wilkins, but specific groups within the student body can be 

"The United States Supreme Court, last spring, went on record as supporting 
random drug testing for high school athletes," said Garden Valley 
Collegiate principal Karl Redekop. "The rationale is that education is a 
right. You can't exclude students from something that is their right, but 
participation in extra-curricular activities like sports is a privilege.

"And student athletes tend often to be leaders in the school, so if you 
have about 250 student athletes setting a positive example, you hope the 
rest of the students will follow that example." It's also a matter of 
safety, says Redekop.

"If your judgment is impaired, or your sense of pain dulled, you can be a 
danger to yourself or to others on the rink or the court," he said.

"We're not out to exclude anyone," he added. "We're here to support our 
students. So if having such a policy in place can support students in 
making the right lifestyle choices, then that's a good thing."

According to the policy-in-the-making, student athletes and their parents 
will be required to sign forms consenting to informed random drug tests 
throughout the year. And it will be a requirement for participation on the 
school's athletic teams, he says. "We will be having an independent company 
do the testing," said Redekop. "(The company) runs these kinds of programs 
for international trucking companies and airlines. They generate random 
picks, with the actual samples being done at the clinic. It will be about 
as unbiased and anonymous as it can be."

Reasonable suspicion

The other piece to the drug testing policy is that if coaches see serious 
indicators that an athlete is using drugs or alcohol, they can, under the 
'reasonable suspicion' clause, have that student tested and dealt with.

One of the concerns, Redekop says, has been with regard to the fact 
students already participating on a sports team may be fingered in these 
drug tests and bumped off the team.

Ample prior notification

However, Redekop says the program will not be implemented at the collegiate 
without ample prior notification and meetings held together with students 
and their parents to explain the policy.

"Then, if there's someone on a team using a controlled substance - drugs or 
alcohol - they can meet privately with the coach and come clean about what 
they're doing," said Redekop.

The student will need to be willing to go for counselling, and must be 
willing to commit to staying drug-free in the future to retain a position 
on the team.

"At that point, if the student is then tested later on, we're looking for 
traces (of drugs) in decreasing levels (to indicate they've stopped 
using)," said Redekop.

Redekop says general student reaction to the proposed policy is mixed.

"Some of the students are saying this is good, some are saying it's not 
fair, that we're picking on athletes," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom