Post Classifieds

Inconsistencies in Drug Testing Policy

By Julia Gormley & Devon Hall
On March 5, 2018

Photo by: Julia Gormley

When it comes to policy-making, concise communication is key. This is a key Ottawa University administrators do not possess.

Basic information requests for an informative article on OU’s drug testing policies led to several metaphorical and physical doors in the face. Without access to interview questions prior to the meeting, administrators wouldn’t agree to an interview opportunity. Of course, denial of the interview questions prior to the interview was only to protect the authenticity of responses —which is standard newspaper policy.

Why do our administrators need time to prepare for an interview over a topic they should be educated about? Why can’t they communicate their messages clearly and concisely? Is there something to hide?

Students have repeatedly reached out to administration on campus, hoping to engage in dialogue about why Ottawa University’s policy is different than the NAIA’s.

Carrie Stevens, Director of Compliance and Title IX Coordinator, was one person who agreed to sit down for an interview without the questions being provided first.

OU has a policy separate from the NAIA, but uses both the NAIA policy and their own, doubling the chances of incriminating students. NAIA’s policy does not mention any form of drug test during off/pre-season play. According to NAIA Drug Testing Policy Article VII, Section A, Players will only be drug-tested by NAIA during National Championships and Invitational competitions. Ottawa has been known for drug testing during the offseason and even during the regular season, even if they have not made it to the National Championship.

When asked, Stevens was not sure why.

“I do know our main purpose is to, one, know that we are serious about drug use, and we do have harsh, harsh penalties for failing it. So, we do want to hold student athletes to a higher standard,” Stevens says. “It’s hard for me to say because I don’t know the NAIA policy. I think that our policy kind of matches other schools, but I don’t know.”

The only positive about Ottawa’s own drug testing policy is the penalties: They are less harsh than NAIA’s. Online, Ottawa states students who fail a drug test will miss 30 percent of their season, compared to NAIA’s where a failed drug test means missing a year of competition.

When it comes to the drug testing policy at Ottawa University, this institution apparently has retained its own agenda for years. OU “randomly” select students during season and in the off-season.

 “I think how we do the teams is pretty fair. It’s a random poll, so they’ll say we want to test 20 people this round, and then they randomly pull from a spread of the teams,” Stevens says. “You might get two lacrosse players and five baseball players— just randomly. ... I know often the students and coaches don’t think it’s random because they feel, ‘Well, my kids are being pulled all the time.’”

But is the system really random? If the drug policies are not completely understood by Stevens, how can one be so sure of its anonymity?

The claim to random polling is later contradicted when Stevens was asked about the protocol for drug testing.

“They use an outside company: Drug Free Sport. They use the company for separation. The athletic director notifies the coaches, then the athletes have to be there real early. I believe Seth (Bell) is the liaison between them -- the student and the coach. He doesn’t administer the tests, but he would be aware when it was. He would also call Drug Free Sport and tell them when we are ready for tests,” Stevens says. (Bell did not respond to our interview request.)

Chosen for a drug test late in the Fall Semester of 2017, Savannah Holland is a student-athlete who witnessed the policy being enforced first-hand. The process is one she wishes not to repeat. Holland passed the test, but technically not the first time because her urine was too diluted.

“I was there at 5:45 a.m., and I did not leave until around 2 p.m.,” Holland says. “I was not allowed to go to classes. I ran four miles and did around 30 burpees and 50 squats, trying to get my urine to the right consistency.”

This introduces another question: Are policies being practiced and enforced to the most ethical degree?

“Honestly, after, I felt violated,” Holland says. “This woman saw every inch of me except for what my bra was covering and still repeatedly told me to spread my legs further and further as if it was a joke. She wouldn’t even hold the door for me. I had to hold it open with my foot and try to pee, while she stood there, folding water between her fingers.”

Holland was told that, because she was not able to provide a sample on the first try, she would most likely be drug tested again. If our system is random, how would the administrator of the test be able to give her this warning? Holland is now another student demanding answers.

“I passed that test. So why would I be selected again? It is supposed to be random. Why am I being punished for keeping myself hydrated? I’m from Alaska, so I have to stay hydrated. It’s a completely different climate here,” Holland says.

Considering all the inconsistency, it is important to point out that certain parts of the policy can be found on OU’s website. There are also meetings held with the teams to inform players about the process and distribute medical exemption forms.

Relying solely on the information online, however, also proves some inconsistency and spurs more questions.

If students want answers, they have to speak up. Unfortunately, drug testing is a very problematic topic. People don’t want their names associated with the issue because they fear backlash or retaliation. This makes it easy for the university to get away with unethical practices, with hiding things behind closed doors. The only thing that initiates change is presence of voice -- something no one wants to offer with the imposed risk.

“Sometimes people get a little bit afraid to say that they don’t want drug testing or that they don’t agree with it because they might be perceived as not being anti-drugs,” Stevens says. “You could be not for drug testing because of personal liberties, not so much, ‘I want people to get away with drugs.’ I think it’s hard for people to make that separation, especially in the academic world. It’s easier to sit back and say, ‘Okay.’”

Let this be understood: Eradicating drug tests is not the point of this article. The point is that the student body has questions, concerns and fears. There is inconsistency within a policy that many students rely on to remain in sports.

This article is a call for more transparency from administrators and potential reform to the policy. The university needs to know that silence is also no answer. 

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