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Competitive safeguards committee takes new approach to drug testing changes

Efforts to eliminate recreational drug testing at championships will continue

A push to replace testing for street drugs at NCAA championship events with a more robust educational and interventional approach has slowed but it has not been derailed entirely.   

After its proposal to eliminate testing for street drugs, such as marijuana, at championship events was rejected by both the Division II and Division III Management Councils in the spring, the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports voted to withdraw the recommendation altogether when it convened last week in Indianapolis. Because of that decision, Division I governing bodies will neither discuss nor vote on the recommendation this summer.

Though it has pulled back the recommendation, the committee does not want to abandon the issue altogether. The Division II Management Council, for instance, indicated support for the concept in general terms but asked for more details before reconsidering the recommendation.

The committee’s proposal, recommended at its December 2014 meeting, called for the NCAA national office and member institutions to share the responsibility of providing educational prevention programs for students. However, divisional governing bodies have asked that the committee and the NCAA’s Sport Science Institute staff formulate a concrete plan for how the responsibilities for deterrence would be implemented before they are willing to move forward.

“Our recommendation this past December was made to strengthen the NCAA drug-testing program for performance-enhancing substances and to develop a shared model of deterrence for recreational drug use with a focus on educational programs instead of a traditional testing model,” said Brant Berkstresser, committee chair and head athletic trainer at Harvard University. “The committee pulled the proposal until we can develop the foundation of those educational programs, which we will bring back to all three divisions at a later date.”

The committee will revisit the subject at its next meeting in December and decide next steps.