Pubdate: Thu, 12 Apr 2012
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2012 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author: Chip Towers
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


ATHENS - There is a reason why drug-testing in college athletics 
remains such a mystery. It's because nobody wants to talk about it.

By all accounts, at least two Georgia football stars will miss games 
next season because they failed random drug tests conducted by the 
school. But we know that only because the high school coach of one of 
those players was willing to talk about it.

Alan Ingram, the head football coach at Seminole County, said his 
former player Bacarri Rambo was one of at least five Georgia players 
who failed a drug test ordered by the athletic department (because of 
marijuana use) shortly after Rambo returned to Athens from a 
spring-break trip to Florida in March. Fellow defensive star Alec 
Ogletree also tested positive for marijuana use at that time, 
according to Ingram and several published reports citing anonymous sources.

But Georgia will neither confirm nor deny the reports. UGA will not 
even acknowledge that drug tests were administered during the time 
frame alleged.

"We just don't comment on that," Georgia athletic director Greg 
McGarity said. " It's nobody's business. It's our business."

A Freedom of Information Act request by The Atlanta 
Journal-Constitution for records that might detail when and where 
drug tests have been conducted this year was denied, citing the 
Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). And questions 
directed to UGA athletic department administrators were deflected 
from one person to another.

Asked about UGA's drug-testing procedures, McGarity referred the 
questions to executive associate AD Carla Williams, "our point person 
regarding anything that has to do with our drug policy," he said.

But when asked for specifics such as how often the school administers 
drug tests, Williams directed the questions to Ron Courson, UGA's 
director of sports medicine. Courson declined to be interviewed 
through a spokesman.

Back to McGarity: "I don't feel like we should be obligated to 
comment on violations of team policy or potential violations. That's 
an internal issue. We'll deal with those at an appropriate time, if 
there's anything to talk about."

We do know that drug-testing is important to Georgia. The athletic 
department has spent $328,270.43 to test its athletes since 2001, 
according to records provided to the AJC. That's an average of 
$27,355 a year. Georgia has already spent $29,137.05 for fiscal-year 2012.

According to Vince Dooley, a former head football coach and athletic 
director, UGA was among the first programs in the country to 
institute its own internal drug-testing program when it did so in 1981.

"We were among the first; maybe the first, I'm not sure," said 
Dooley, who was coming off a national championship that year. "Ours 
was a model for a good while. We realized that there was a serious 
problem. After a lot of study, including consultation with the NFL - 
because we were totally ignorant on this until we got educated - we 
installed a drug program."

Georgia's current policy, as outlined in its 2011-12 Student-Athlete 
Handbook, is among the toughest in the country. According to an 
article published by AOL Fanhouse in 2010, Georgia is one of two 
programs in the SEC (Kentucky is the other) and six nationwide that 
suspends players for one game for a first offense of its drug policy. 
A second marijuana offense at UGA calls for a suspension from 30 
percent of competition dates and a third results in dismissal.

Georgia coach Mark Richt supports the hard line.

"Every rule we have is for the benefit of these guys and for the 
team," Richt said. "The discipline that we give does involve playing 
time, and that's the thing guys covet the most. When you discipline 
guys and you take playing time away, I'm hoping that is something 
that sticks enough where it will change that individuals' behavior 
for the better."

Offensive lineman Chris Burnette said he has been subjected to drug 
tests twice at Georgia, once by the NCAA and once by the school. He 
said he doesn't have a problem with it.

"Not really," Burnette said. "I feel like, if you look at the 
workplace, you can't have a job without them seeing what you're doing 
when it comes to drugs. For us, playing college football is just like 
a job. I'm actually glad about the proactiveness of them doing drug 
tests. In the long run, if they can nip it now, it won't cost as much later."

Many believe such self-policing puts Georgia at a competitive 
disadvantage. The Bulldogs were missing Rambo, an All-American 
safety, when they lost to Boise State in the season opener last year. 
Georgia could be missing as many as four defensive starters for a 
potentially tough SEC road game against Missouri in the second game 
of this season.

There are proponents of across-the-board drug-testing within each 
conference, if not nationwide. That has been discussed in the SEC, 
but to date, conference ADs have reached an agreement on the subject.

"At this time the institutions have elected not to have a 
conference-wide drug-testing policy," said Charles Bloom, SEC 
associate commissioner for media relations. "It's a topic that has 
been on the agenda of previous ADs meetings and will likely be 
periodically in the future. But I'm not sure when it will be next."

Richt remains skeptical.

"I don't know if that would ever happen," he said. "I think every 
institution is going to make their decisions on what they feel is in 
the best interest of their student-athletes. ... I don't want to 
comment on anybody else's policies, but it'd be interesting to see 
that happen. I just don't know if it ever would happen."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom