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Iowa finds flaws with drug testing

[ 5 ] December 14, 2010 |

Iowa’s top athletic administrator conceded Tuesday that some Hawkeye athletes likely have avoided detection of drug usage, but he defended the department’s program as proactive and effective.

Athletic director Gary Barta said during a news conference with football coach Kirk Ferentz that officials realize “we have to tighten up” the system.

“We did find pretty strong evidence there are a couple ways our student-athletes have, and probably have at some point, gotten around the test in some way,” Barta said.

The conference was prompted by the recent arrest of Hawkeye record-holding wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on misdemeanor drug charges.

Police records allege that Johnson-Koulianos admitted using cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs, and “admitted he knew drugs were being used and likely sold out of the residence.”

Barta said a recent review of Iowa’s student-athlete substance abuse testing protocol, which subjects about 700 Hawkeye athletes to at least one random drug test for street drugs and performance enhancement drugs annually, disclosed “flaws and inconsistencies.”

He declined to provide details on what flaws were found or provide an estimate of how many athletes may have avoided detection.

“I’m not going to talk about details,” Barta said. “What I’m confident about, unfortunately we learned, there’s enough evidence in our protocol to say that we have to tighten up, that it’s pretty likely that someone, and I don’t know if it’s one or if it’s 21, but someone has gotten around this process.

“If it’s only one, then it makes you doubt all testing.”

Barta contended during a 45-minute news conference that, despite those concerns, officials failed to identify anyone cheating on the tests.
He also added that he wasn’t worried that “a staff member … is involved in some sort of inappropriate behavior or cover-up.”

Barta declined to say whether any Iowa athlete has refused drug testing in recent weeks. He said refusal is considered by school policy to be a positive test, and Barta said the university would not disclose or discuss test outcomes.

Under university protocol, a first-time positive test results in an athlete being referred to substance abuse counseling. A first-time positive test does not require any loss of practice or competition time. A second positive requires suspension from competition.

Barta said the university has the authority to be more strict, however, if deemed necessary.

“It depends on each individual situation,” he said.

Iowa initiated its own student-athlete drug testing program in 1988 after the disclosure that three Hawkeye men’s basketball players had undergone 28-day drug rehabilitation at university expense. The cost of Iowa’s current program is estimated at $70,000, Barta said.

Ferentz said Tuesday that he supports the university’s drug-testing program, as well as the testing programs conducted by the NCAA and the Big Ten.

“My rationale has been to get out ahead and my goal is to always find out about a player that has issues ahead of the game,” Ferentz said. “That’s pretty much our rationale for that. We’ve been very, very proactive this year alone.”

Ferentz estimated that 92 football players were tested this season — a number “as high as you’d find in the country.”

Fred Mims, associate athletic director in charge of student services and compliance, said Iowa athletes participating in sports such as football, wrestling, basketball and track and field — sports in which performance-impacting drugs are more common — are tested twice a year on average, either by the NCAA, the Big Ten or the university.

“It’s difficult to estimate the number of times one athlete is going to be tested because they are chosen randomly,” said Mims, adding that some athletes could be tested as many as four times in a year. “Last year, the NCAA was in here (to test) and a week later the Big Ten was here.”

Mims said the NCAA and Big Ten programs are directed mostly at deterring the use of performance-enhancing drugs, while Iowa’s program is targeted more at education and student-athlete health before drug-related problems escalate.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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