Pubdate: Sun, 19 May 2002
Source: Oklahoman, The (OK)
Copyright: 2002 The Oklahoma Publishing Co
Author: Jeff Miller (The Miami Herald)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


Our athletes are on drugs. Read all about it.

Jose Canseco threatens to write a between-the-sheets book about all things 
evil in baseball, particularly steroid use.

Damon Stoudamire pleads not guilty to possessing marijuana, hoping a 
technicality erases the police claim that his home furnishings included a 
pound of pot.

The trainer for the New York Giants estimates 75 percent of last year's 
team used the now-banned ephedra, a substance that can bounce energy levels 
like golf balls hitting concrete.

And all this was just in Wednesday's papers.

Just say no?

Just say woe.

Drug use is never a good thing to have in the sports pages. Too much 
reality mixed in with the boxscores and horse racing results, too much 
additional bad publicity at a time when, very soon now, Mike Tyson is bound 
to speak again without his Zoloft.

But there's something else to understand about reality, sports and bad 
publicity. And drugs. Our professional leagues, while campaigning against 
all types of abuse, while urging kids to crack books but not crack crack, 
are quietly helping their athletes avoid something worse than using drugs. 
That would be getting caught using drugs.

Management and the various players unions are working closely to ensure 
images aren't tarnished, even if the protection must be colored in a shade 
of blatant hypocrisy.

You see, many of these random drug tests are no more random than the 
arrival of your monthly telephone bill. Just last week, Dolphins officials 
informed their players of an upcoming test, being sure to provide ample 
time for, well, preparation.

This is not meant to suggest anything about any Dolphins player. This only 
is intended to provide a glimpse of how the system works -- or fails -- 
throughout most major sports.

When the NBA reinstated marijuana testing a few years ago, league 
executives sent letters urging players who smoked pot to step forward and 
seek treatment ... if they feared failing. The league also informed players 
when to expect the tests.

"They let us know about it, so it shouldn't be a problem," said John 
Wallace, then with the Knicks. "It's just a matter of doing what you've got 
to do to make sure that when the time comes you're right."

Do what you've got to do? That's all it is? Does this sound like a program 
designed to find drug users or one intended to avoid finding them? The NBA 
only resumed testing after several players admitted that, sure, more than 
half the league was using marijuana, Charles Oakley going so far as to say 
guys often play games high.

"You test a guy," Oakley said, "and he gets high the next day."

Among NFL players, the process has become a training-camp tradition, like a 
rookie being initiated by having to sing his alma mater. During a team's 
introductory meeting, the test dates are announced, typically one day for 
offensive players and another for defensive players. And you thought the 
most important warning in football came with two minutes left? How about 
the one that comes with two weeks to go?

For players with clean records, this test is the only one that checks for 
drugs like marijuana and cocaine all season. During the year, there are 
random tests -- truly random -- for steroids. The league, however, has 
little concern if a player is getting high. Unless he's busted by police, 
which, isn't good for your image thing.

Distributed By Knight Ridder
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