These days it is tough to turn on ESPN without hearing something about drugs. Swimmer Michael Phelps smoked marijuana. Baseball player Alex Rodriguez took a “banned substance” that was most likely a steroid.
The type of examples that these athletes set have been said to lead to a trickle-down effect from the pros to college and then high school athletes.
Steroids and other banned supplements, like human growth hormone for example, are not the only problem in the pros and in some colleges. Marijuana has also been a popular drug choice for many athletes and non-athletes alike. It’s possible that illegal supplements have been used by Division III athletes as well.
Simpson College does administer drug tests for athletes. The type of testing that Simpson does has changed in recent years from urine testing to saliva testing. It has also changed dramatically in what the tests are looking for.
“The drug tests here are primarily illicit or street drugs,” Mike Hadden, program director of athletic training, said. “In the past we have done steroid testing, but never have come back with a positive test. We do as an athletic department monitor behavior which can be key in determining if an athlete is on something.”
According to Hadden, tests are administered randomly to a few members of every team throughout the school year. The reason why the tests have been switched from urine to saliva is due to the fact that an athlete can do a number of things to help themselves cheat the urine test.
Hadden said that saliva testing is very hard to fake, as well as less embarrassing for the athlete to administer in front of a trainer.
If an athlete was to test positive for a banned substance, that athlete would be ineligible to participate in the sport for a year, pending an appeal. On the second offense, that athlete would never be able to compete in NCAA athletics again. Simpson’s NCAA Compliance Coordinator Bob Nutgrass has gone three years without seeing a positive test from a Storm athlete.
“I’d say the informed student athlete should have a knowledge of what they’re taking, but that’s not always the case,” Nutgrass said. “In cases where students are doing supplements, most don’t know if there are drugs or banned supplements in them. That’s why we have meetings to inform student athletes.”
Before each season begins, athletes must sign a waiver at an NCAA rules meeting that states they will not take any drugs listed on the banned substance list, which is included within the waiver. The intent of these meetings is to show athletes what is included on the very extensive banned substance list.
The list itself has five different categories of substances which are stimulants, anabolic agents, diuretics, street drugs and peptide hormones and analogues. The list mentions 83 different substances as banned and consumption of these substances will result in a suspension. These drugs range anywhere from cocaine and ecstasy to many types of testosterone and longer scientific-named drugs such as methylphenidate.
With the few instances that Nutgrass has seen here at Simpson, he was unsure as to whether or not he thought drugs were a problem in Division III athletics or not.
“It’s hard to tell if it’s a problem, I haven’t seen any stats,” Nutgrass said. “I wouldn’t bet that in the large schools there’s things going on but you just don’t know. Overall, it’s an issue for sure.”
Alex Rodriguez claimed to be ignorant about the substance he was taking at the time. Does the same ignorance lie with the average Simpson athlete?
Hadden says it does not.
“I think that for the most part, they know what is illegal,” Hadden said. “Most don’t realize that caffeine in high doses is illegal. The problem with supplements is they don’t always put all the ingredients on the label.”
Junior Ben Reutzel is an athletic training major at Simpson and also participates on the football team for the Storm. He is under the impression that the coaches and administrators do a great job of telling athletes what they can and cannot take.
“I think the average athlete is pretty aware because they send out a sheet of what is legal and what’s not, and Coach
(Justin) Snyder (head strength and conditioning coach) does a good job of explaining protein and nutrition to everyone,” Reutzel said.
EFFECTS OF CHEATING
Many athletes who avoid using illegal drugs don’t like to see another person who cheats find success, Reutzel included.
For Reutzel, he hates to see a cheater succeed by way of steroids or other drugs.
“I think of it as a way of cheating,” Reutzel said. “You can’t cut it like other people can and you have to find an outside advantage. You want to see people like that get caught.”
Hadden’s concern lies more with the drastic health defects that these drugs can have.
“How much do you really want to shrink your testicles?” Hadden asked. “Have a heart attack? Have a stroke? Die? All for having a little limelight. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”