Saying No to Steroids

March 31, 2006

Duke has strengthened its policy for student-athletes who test positive for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. The new policy states that any student-athlete who tests positive for anabolic steroids, blood doping, or masking agents will be suspended from athletic participation for one year. A second offense would result in loss of eligibility.

The policy also calls for evaluation, treatment, and counseling for any student-athlete who tests positive for a street drug or other NCAA-banned substance besides steroids. A second offense would result in the athlete's being suspended for a minimum of half a season. A third violation would result in a permanent ban from competition.

The penalties for street drugs are basically the same as the university's previous policy. But the old policy did not distinguish between street drugs and steroids, while the new one takes a "zero-tolerance" stance toward steroids, says James E. Coleman Jr., a law professor who headed the committee that recommended the changes. Steroids, he says, undermine the integrity of athletic competition.

"The university policy also treats the use of masking agents, the refusal to submit to testing, or attempts to manipulate a drug test as a positive test for steroids," Coleman says. "This eliminates any benefit for a student using steroids to skip a test and any incentive for a student using street drugs to skip a test."

The new policy calls for unannounced drug testing for all student-athletes on Duke's twenty-six intercollegiate teams, and says that students are responsible for all substances in their bodies, including any nutritional and dietary supplements that may violate the anti-doping policy. Student-athletes may appeal a violation but not solely on the grounds that they unwittingly used a product that contained a banned substance.

Last year, The Chronicle published reports alleging steroid use by former members of Duke's baseball team. The reports were one factor in the university's decision to review the policy, according to Executive Vice President Tallman Trask III.

"While we fully checked out these allegations and were satisfied that this was not a widespread problem, we nonetheless felt it was important to take this proactive step in strengthening our drug policy," Trask says. "We also felt Duke could, and should, take a leadership role in this area, and that it is in the best interest of our student-athletes' health and well-being that we do so."