An article in Sunday’s issue of the New York Times brought to light an issue that deserves closer examination from the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association.)
The article revealed the NCAA’s drug-testing, which is conducted by an external company, Drug Free Sport, in the interest of transparency, has some less than savory elements to it that do not serve the organization if deterring drugs among student athletes is something they truly value.
Drug Free Sport, which conducts drug testing for the NFL and NBA, was founded by a former NCAA employee. According to the New York Times, the company now receives about $4.6 million every year from the NCAA for their drug tests, yet the article stated “since the company began running the NCAA’s drug-testing program in 1999 … the rate of positive tests has been no higher than 1 percent in any year despite an NCAA survey of student-athletes that indicated at least 1 in 5 used marijuana, a banned substance.”
The stench of conflicts of interest reeks.
Furthermore, unlike other drug-testing agencies which often require drug-testing to be completed within 90 minutes of its announcement, the article stated that college athletes are often given as much as a day’s notice in advance before the tests were administered. In other cases, the colleges were allowed to administer their own tests — making tampering with and skewing test results hard to trace.
While the article itself states that college athletics is not where doping scandals typically take place, if the NCAA places any value in its athletes being drug-free, this form of testing for the sake of testing is certainly not the best way of achieving this.
According to a 2007 study, college athletes are more likely than the average college students to face more pressure to do drugs.
For an organization like the NCAA, so vast in size, it is indeed difficult to find an effective solution that can test the hundreds of thousands of athletes, but the existing policy seems to advocate that it is all right to turn a blind eye. For athletes starting their careers, this should not be the idea they take away.
Though the article does not point to evidence of abuse of the system, the holes in the system should be closed to prevent opportunities for such abuse.