Drug testing our student-athletes: Fair or foul?

Jan. 19, 2014 @ 07:23 AM

Lincoln County made headlines on Thursday when it was reported that the local school board approved a drug-testing policy for Lincoln County high school athletes beginning the 2014-15 school year.

According to the reports, the testing will look for use of any illegal substances and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

The policy implements a simple three-strike system with the first positive test drawing a 90-day suspension from all athletics, the second a 365-day suspension and the third suspends the offender for the remainder of their high school career.

Now I don’t want to dive into the parameters of the punishments, but I do want to say that 90 days for a first offense is a little harsh.

Anyways, when I first heard the news I was taken back. I had never heard of such a thing on the high school level. But apparently this is fairly common across the country and even in North Carolina.

Macon, Swain, Jackson, Gaston and Ashe counties all have some form of testing.

This hit me hard because I wrote in Lincoln County for a short stint before coming to Rutherford, and the similarities between the two counties are undeniable. Could this happen in Rutherford County?

My initial reaction was, “c’mon now. Where does it end?” Drug testing at the professional level makes sense considering teams are paying players millions upon millions of dollars to perform. The players are employees and the teams are the employer. Even on the college level players are receiving scholarships. But on the high school level, what is the benefit and investment the schools are trying to protect?

Before we start questioning the constitutionality of the whole situation, let's put that issue to rest. After doing plenty of research on other cases where parents have sued schools over drug testing, the overwhelming opinion is that testing is well within the school's rights, especially considering that parents and students must sign a waiver subjecting themselves to random testing.

When I brought up the topic to others to gather opinions, most of them said it was a waste of time and money considering that high school athletes using PEDs can't be a that large of number. I agree. However, not being too far out of high school and having the understanding of today's young adults from social media, there are plenty of kids participating in underage drinking and illegal drugs. Sad but true.

I've even seen pictures of high school athletes smoking marijuana proudly posted on Twitter. It blows my mind, but it happens.

With that in mind, I believe this drug-testing effort is more targeted towards those that use recreational drugs and/or drink underage. And the more I think about the policies and the more opinions I hear, I support it.

It's no secret that underage drinking and illegal drug use is rampant in today's society. We all want to think that our kids are above such things, and they just might be, but the problem is unquestionably present.

Maybe this policy will discourage high school students from participating in illegal activities for fear of losing athletic eligibility. Or maybe they'll choose the mischief over the field or court.

I personally believe in the purpose and intent of this and similar policies, they want to clean up schools and help kids succeed. That's all well and good, but from this "solution" I feel that only more problems will grow.

If schools are given the task of conducting their own tests, do you think the tests will truly be random? Do you think that the school's star quarterback will be asked to pee in a cup the week before a big game? Probably not, especially if his integrity is at all questionable.

A noble program would test him regardless of his stature or the timing that his name pops up whatever randomizing program schools use for selection, but do we truly trust schools that much?

I know, you probably trust your school that much. You probably trust your child's school that much. But do you trust other schools that much?

We've seen in the news lately how colleges cover up poor tests grades to keep players eligible and active, do you think high schools are above doing the same with drug tests? I'm not that optimistic.

I plan on delving into this subject matter much deeper in the coming weeks, but I just wanted to plant the seed in the minds of readers.

What do you think of drug testing student-athletes on the high school level? Would you support a program like this in Rutherford County? Where do you think the loopholes are? Call me and let me know. Email me and let me know. My contact info is at the top of the sports section every day.

Again, I'm all for keeping kids away from drugs, but are we trading one issue for an entirely new set of problems and questions? And if we are, is it worth it?