GW Athletic Department officials said this week that the University does not test athletes for performance-enhancing and street drugs, instead relying on the NCAA to enforce that group’s prohibition of such substances. Unfortunately, the NCAA’s enforcement is inadequate. GW should enact a random drug testing policy to protect the integrity of its athletic program.
Currently, the NCAA only tests one team in each Division I school per year for drug use – an inadequate enforcement policy in light of the multitude of college teams across the country. Furthermore, the NCAA test does not look for street drugs, which are explicitly prohibited by the organization’s rules.
GW had a damaging run-in with inadequate NCAA enforcement earlier this year. In February, the media jumped on the University men’s basketball program for allowing certain team members to play despite having graduated from allegedly inadequate high-school programs. In that case the NCAA Clearinghouse, which is in charge of verifying players’ academic credentials, approved the players in question. The media faulted GW for complicity, although the University followed NCAA rules.
In that instance, poor NCAA enforcement damaged GW and its players’ images. A similar scenario is possible when it comes to drug use. If GW relies on the NCAA testing policy, it is highly likely that players would be able to utilize drugs without ramification. If, however, a test came up during a championship match and athletes tested positive, it would severely impact the image and reputation of the athletes involved, GW’s athletic programs, and the University as a whole.
To protect its image and ensure the highest possible quality for its athletics, the University should go a step above the NCAA policy and institute a random drug testing policy for all athletes. Such a program would serve as an effective deterrent against drug use by student-athletes at a minimal cost to the athletic program.
One of the University’s arguments for the lack of any drug testing policy is the fact that some would see it unfair that only a certain segment of the student population is under scrutiny. Whether athletes like it or not, they are already under increased scrutiny from the rules of the NCAA. This reason provides ample reasoning for random testing of all student-athletes.
No one can definitely conclude that drug use is rampant among GW’s varsity sports participants. It is incumbent upon the University to protect its image and its players from poor NCAA enforcement. Failure to do so could result in embarrassment for GW’s athletic program and harm to its reputation.