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GC plays hardball with drug policy

Photo by Mackenzie Burgess

Photo by Mackenzie Burgess

It has recently come to light that certain colleges turn a blind eye or cover up indiscretions concerning drug and alcohol abuse in college athletics. Georgia College, however, is not one of those schools.

“(For drug testing), we have a maximum allowance. Some schools will let you test positive seven or eight times,” Paul Higgs, head athletic trainer, said. “That’s not really a program.”

The drug and alcohol policy of GC Athletics has a “two and done” policy. The Student-Athlete Handbook states that, “A second positive test result … will result in immediate dismissal from all intercollegiate athletic participation.”

Most individual teams have taken up their own stricter drug policy.

“There are a couple of teams that it’s one and done,” Higgs said. “If you get one positive, you’re out, and that can be scary.”

The policy, while seemingly harsh, aims to help students rather than hinder them.

“When (the athletes are) tested, before they’re tested, they’re given a chance to declare anything they’re taking,” Higgs said. “Medications, supplements, dietary something, herbs, whatever they want (that might) show up.”

If the athlete confesses to a drug abuse problem, his or her eligibility will not be affected by the results of the test.

“We don’t assume that every positive means that somebody is a drug user,” Higgs said.

This Safe Harbor exemption may only be used once during an athlete’s career, according to the handbook. This gives the athlete the chance to own up to their mistake and receive help.

“My intent is that if there is a problem, we want to help you,” Higgs said. “It’s a sad thing for me to sit an athlete down and say, ‘This came up positive. Tell me what’s going on.’ … If there is a problem going on, we want to help that person to make sure that problem doesn’t happen again.”

GC’s policy is completely separate from the NCAA’s policy.

“(For the NCAA), if you test positive one time, you’re done for 365 days from that point. If you test positive twice with the NCAA, you’re done for good,” Ginger Chaffinch, assistant athletic director, said. “The NCAA is not messing around.”

The athletes are given both policies to look over and sign at the beginning of each year.

“They sign off on forms. They know that they have the possibility of being drug tested at any time,” Chaffinch said.

The GC policy helps the athletes with the NCAA policy. The policy states that drug tests will be randomly issued at least three times a semester. Higgs confirms that they meet this requirement and in fact issue drug tests every month. By issuing these tests, the athletic department helps athletes with any issues concerning the test – ranging from a false positive to an actual drug problem – before a test is done by the NCAA.

“We have a good drug testing policy which in turn helps when the NCAA comes in and drug tests us,” Chaffinch said.

The GC policy for alcohol, which is under revision, does not prohibit the consumption of alcohol for any athlete of legal age. Because drinking is legal for some and not for others, it is not handled the same way as drug abuse. However, the policy does discourage against alcohol abuse.

Most of the alcohol infractions involve the city or county police so those things kind of take care of themselves,” Higgs said. “But there’s also some discipline and counseling that may be required on the athletic end.”

The GC Department of Athletics ensures that it protects its students without any illegal activity. “We’re not hiding anything. We make sure that the discipline is there and try not to let it happen again,” Higgs said.

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