Pubdate: 4 Aug 2003
Source: Waco Tribune-Herald (TX)
Copyright: 2003 Waco-Tribune Herald
Author: Kim Gorum
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


Amid widening allegations of substance abuse by murder suspect Carlton 
Dotson and some of his former teammates at Baylor University, officials 
both on campus and off are raising red flags regarding the university's 
drug-testing program.

Recent interviews with administrators of testing programs at several other 
Division I schools in Texas revealed concerns about the discretion given 
Baylor coaches to determine testing schedules in their programs - concerns 
echoed by some of the coaches themselves.

But other athletic officials and coaches view the issue as something of a 
red herring, given the university's internal probe of possible NCAA rules 
violations in the men's basketball program. They say BU's tests represent 
only one of three prongs in a comprehensive drug program that includes 
regular testing by both the NCAA and the Big 12 Conference office. And in 
fact, at least one Big 12 school conducts no testing of its own because 
state statutes restrict or prohibit it.

"I don't know all the answers there," said Big 12 associate commissioner 
Prentice Gautt, who oversees the league's drug-testing procedures and 
protocols. "With Baylor being a private school, some of this might be 
related to the coach's philosophy, the way they recruit or the size of the 
community. But we all go in with the same thought in mind - to help educate 
our students. And hopefully it's enough of a deterrent to prevent some 

According to athletic department officials, Baylor coaches have discretion 
over how - or even whether - BU's drug testing is implemented within their 

Most of the coaches interviewed by the Tribune-Herald , however, said they 
never ordered team-wide testing, and were unaware they had the authority to 
do so. Though all the coaches knew they could have student-athletes tested 
if they suspected a problem, those who discussed the issue said they had 
never requested a test.

"In Baylor's defense, I've always known that if I needed kids drug-tested, 
I could ask (BU director of sports medicine Mike Sims) and have it done," 
said track coach Clyde Hart, whose team members are subject to year-round 
testing by the NCAA and random tests by the Big 12, as well as mandatory 
testing at many national and international events.

"If I felt like I had a problem, I'd request it," said another coach, one 
of several who spoke on condition they not be identified. "If I didn't, I 
wouldn't. And frankly, I'd be hard-pressed to believe I could have a 
problem and not know about it."

The issue became public last Monday when men's basketball coach Dave Bliss 
said in a press conference that his players are drug-tested at the 
beginning of the fall semester and the end of the spring, with follow-ups 
for players who test positive or display "aberrant behavior."

"We test when they come in the fall," Bliss said. "We test everybody; 
everybody goes through. It is a sound and very reliable testing procedure."

Bliss cited privacy laws in declining to answer questions about whether any 
of his players had failed drug tests last fall, but said, "I'm dealing with 
young people that are no more doing drugs than the man in the moon."

His remarks came in response to allegations last month by Dotson's 
estranged wife, Melissa Kethley, that Dotson and teammate Patrick Dennehy 
were among a group of five or six players who frequently smoked marijuana 
at the couple's Waco apartment.

Former Baylor team member Robert Hart, who played with Dotson at Paris 
Junior College and roomed with him last fall, has also said that drug use 
was widespread on the team, and his mother told The Dallas Morning News in 
a story that appeared Saturday that she passed that information along to a 
BU official.

Dotson was arrested July 21 on murder charges after allegedly shooting 
Dennehy in the head after an argument. The decomposed body of the 6-10 
junior was discovered in a gravel pit about five miles southeast of Waco on 
July 25, more than five weeks after his family reported him missing.

Baylor's drug policy, as laid out in the student-athlete handbook given to 
all team members, requires notification of Baylor's office of judicial and 
legal student services (which may take action independent of the athletic 
department) and followup screening after a first positive test, and a 
suspension agreed upon by the coach and athletic director after the second.

Despite the allegations of frequent drug use, Dotson remained eligible all 
year long, playing in all 28 of Baylor's games. The Bears' season began on 
Nov. 23, at least two months after the players' first drug test.

Kethley also has said she took Dotson, Dennehy and a third player to a Waco 
clinic for testing after they failed team-ordered drug screenings, and that 
she watched Dotson fake a test result by using a urine sample from a teammate.

But some current and former players suggest that passing off a fake sample 
wouldn't be that easy, and Sims is skeptical as well.

"I can tell you horror stories - people injecting (drug-free) urine into 
their bladders to pass a test - but we've never had anything like that 
happen here," he said.

Like most other schools, Baylor hires an independent technician to conduct 
its tests, which are then sent to a lab at King's Daughters Hospital in 
Temple for screening. Sims said the technician stands behind the player in 
an open stall, immediately measures the temperature of the urine sample and 
records it, and gets the player's initials on the chain-of-custody form. He 
said the Big 12's procedure for testing is similar, but that the conference 
tests for a wider array of drugs, and only one or two players rather than 
the whole team. Baylor tests only for "street drugs" such as marijuana, 
opiates, amphetamines and the like.

If a player fails the first screening, he is given six weeks for his system 
to cleanse itself and pass a followup test. Athletic department spokesman 
Scott Stricklin said the procedure for the second test is identical to the 

"It's the same people with the same methods as the initial test," he said.

Kethley told the Tribune-Herald that she took the players to the Lake Shore 
Family Medical Center in Waco for testing. Lake Shore office manager Alesia 
Shiver confirmed that the center has run tests for members of the Baylor 
basketball team, but said she could not elaborate because of 
confidentiality issues.

"We have done drug testing for them in the past," she said. "Obviously, I 
couldn't tell you when or the players."

She did say, however, that Lake Shore does not conduct screening for a 
third party. The test results are given to the client, she said, not the 

Sims said such results are not considered reliable by his office.

"Without knowing the chain of custody, we couldn't accept that," he said.

Such issues, say administrators of drug-testing programs elsewhere, are 
what make coaches' direct involvement in the testing protocol problematic. 
In matters of drug-testing, coaches must be, like Caesar's wife, beyond 

"I think coaches have to be involved to some extent to avoid scheduling 
conflicts," said Texas A&M's Karl Kapchinski, who oversees a testing 
program that screens every athlete on campus at least once per semester on 
a random basis. "I know there are some schools that pick a particular day 
(for testing) and there's not much flexibility in it. But if coaches are 
actually dictating when to test, I think those are probably issues that 
they ought to stay out of, except for reasons of convenience."

Several Baylor coaches contacted last week agreed.

"I don't think that I should have control of that, because that's not part 
of coaching," said one of them. "That's a medical issue. I just follow 
Baylor and NCAA guidelines, and trust my trainer and the medical staff."

Houston's Floyd Robinson goes even farther, suggesting that the program 
should be divorced from the athletic department.

"It gives the program more objectivity and credibility if you move it out," 
said the director of UH's student health center, which took over the 
testing procedure several years ago.

"And over a period of time, the athletic people were really pleased because 
the burden had been taken off their medical staff. They're very cooperative 
with us."

TCU's T. Ross Bailey also takes a hard line on coaching involvement, but 
thinks the reason for drug-testing is lost on many laymen.

"No testing component itself makes up for a good substance abuse program," 
he said. "It's all about education."

Bailey, now an associate AD after 21 years as TCU's director of sports 
medicine, handles a testing program backstopped only by the NCAA. 
Conference USA has no testing program of its own.

"It's not about being a hard disciplinarian," he said. "It's about finding 
out each kid's individual needs. And if it gives a kid a reason to say no 
if he feels pressured otherwise, so be it."  
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