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Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

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SMQ tries diligently to distinguish between the authoritarian acts of a private governing body whose members join its ranks voluntarily and the actual, gun-toting government, and the NCAA certainly is among the former group. Therefore its recent decision to expand drug testing to the summer does not fall under the category of a fourth amendment-violating search and seizure without reasonable suspicion, as any government's should, nor does it violate any other civil rights, as its members can freely withdraw from its jurisdiction any time.

And yet...and yet...SMQ's inner libertarian fumes that no substantial recourse is available for this:
Recognizing that vacation time isn’t down time for student-athletes preparing for next season, the NCAA is planning to conduct drug testing during summer months beginning this year.

Acting on authority granted in Bylaws and, the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports has authorized summer testing at Division I institutions, focusing this year on football and baseball.

“This has been coming for some time,” said Mary Wilfert, NCAA associate director of education outreach and staff liaison to the competitive-safeguards committee. “We’ve previously been hesitant to test into the summer months, because of concerns about extending student-athletes’ participation in a sport beyond a traditional season and also logistical considerations.

“But the reality is that student-athletes don’t take the summer off,” she said.

The National Center for Drug Free Sport, Inc., which conducts testing for the Association, will advise institutions in an April memorandum on how to prepare for the summer initiative.

Institutions will be instructed to designate a staff member to serve as a site coordinator for summer testing. Site coordinators will be responsible for contacting and notifying randomly selected student-athletes of their selection for testing, and for assisting Drug Free Sport in arranging collections.

Testing likely will include student-athletes who are not physically present on campuses, Wilfert said. As a result, testing may occur at homes, jobs or other locations, though the program will adhere in all other respects to the protocol used in the NCAA’s year-round testing program — including its chain of custody, confidentiality, penalty and appeal procedures.

While the summer program will be limited in scope and its primary focus will be football and baseball, all Division I institutions are subject to inclusion and student-athletes from any Division I sport could be selected for testing, said Frank Uryasz, Drug Free Sport president.

“This is just an extension of the year-round program, which traditionally has ended when the second semester or third trimester ended,” he said. “All Division I sports are included in the year-round testing program, so they can expect to be included in summer testing, too.”
Wilfert said NCAA legislation permits testing any time during the year, and added student-athletes are placed on notice by the drug-testing consent form that testing can occur any time between when they sign that form at the beginning of the academic year through August 31 of the following year.

She believes the move toward summer testing anticipates pressures that soon may come to bear on sports at all levels, including intercollegiate sports, as concerns build in Congress and elsewhere over the effectiveness of drug testing by organizations that govern or sponsor competition.

“We’ve heard, through the Congressional scrutiny of the past year, there remains the potential for federal legislation that would include a requirement for year-round testing in Divisions I and II,” she said. “There is a perception that a gap in testing exists.”

Uryasz said it is primarily that perception, rather than any particular results of previous drug testing or survey data, that supports extending testing into summer months.

“If you look at the newest drug-use data, steroid use is down again, and so it would be easy to say, we don’t need to make any changes,” he said. “But common sense tells us that when you give athletes 60 to 90 days without the burden of drug testing, it provides a window of opportunity that we need to close.”

Uryasz said that even when summer usage of performance-enhancing drugs ends before the school year begins, its benefits extend into the competitive season.
In professional sports, SMQ is among the few - there are actually a few - who is opposed to steroids and artificial enhancement testing on the grounds that weightlifting and proper nutrition are intentional manipulations of chemicals in the body for the purpose of enhancing athletic performance, too, and these measures are not only applauded but necessary for the ultimate success of steroids, that there is nothing unfair about this if it's legal for everyone, and that adults are responsible for any possible health consequences of what they choose to put into their own bodies (consequences, it's worth pointing out, that are increasingly less severe these days as science and medicine improve even illicit products). And there is probably something to the argument that prohibition makes steroids more dangerous because users are less likely to seek competent medical treatment or oversight for illicit substances. Athletes at that level are already freaks finely tuned far beyond the physical reach of most mere mortals.

But he is less certain about that stance when it comes to the collegiates. And, again, the NCAA is within it's right to enact whatever mistrustful, draconian measures it likes on its members. Yet to randomly subject regular kids not specifically suspected of anything wrong to a measure society at large restricts only to those it has solid reason to suspect of criminality because you can - another sore subject for libertarian sensibilities in itself - violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the fourth amendment, and overlooks that medical technology is inherently democratic: abolishing such rules would restrict the disadvantage that rule-abiding athletes by defintion are subjected to compared to their rogue colleagues by eliminating the regulatory barrier that separates the two. Smaller, slower guys might have a better chance, if they work hard and decide the potential risks are worth a chance at success, to develop a body that can keep up.

Or are we better off just saying, "Piss in the cup, no questions asked"?
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5:55 PM

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