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A day before deciding outcomes on legislative proposals developed this past year, hundreds of Division III delegates met to discuss an issue that will be prevalent this next year.
Division III members assembled in roundtables to discuss whether the division should pursue regular-season drug testing.
A good portion of Friday’s Division III Issues Forum was devoted to whether the division should expand its current championships-only drug-testing program to the regular season.
Forum attendees reviewed results of a pilot testing and education study conducted in 2007-09 that showed some use of anabolic steroids, stimulants and illegal street drugs, but nothing to indicate a crisis in Division III.
The Division III Presidents Council, Presidents Advisory Group, Management Council and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee reviewed those findings last summer and said they preferred an educational approach over mandatory testing.
However, several speakers at Friday’s forum urged attendees not to downplay the deterrence effects of a program that comes with consequences.
One student-athlete said testing beats educational lectures that he said for many student-athletes “go in one ear and out the other.” Meanwhile, an athletics director at a school that implemented testing talked of its immediate and positive impact.
Others, though, believe that a mandatory regular-season testing program is neither cost-effective nor necessary and would counter the division’s philosophical benchmark of treating student-athletes no differently than other students.
Interestingly, one commenter used that idea of “segregation” to support testing, saying that anything that would “segregate” student-athletes from such destructive behavior is a good thing.
Attendees also heard how the educational approach can benefit from input from student affairs and other like-minded departments on campuses. Judy Douglas, the director of alcohol and drug education at Gustavus Adolphus, said the collaborative effort at her campus resulted in key grants for programming that changed behaviors.
As of now, the governance structure supports allocating resources toward more specifically targeted education that warns against not only drug abuse but alcohol abuse, as well. The Presidents Council also is considering a fund that would help institutions that want to implement testing be able to do so (in lieu of a mandatory division-wide approach).
Friday’s forum – and the feedback forms from each of the roundtables – will help shape the future of the discussion.
If legislation is proposed to implement a division-wide drug-testing program (which would be funded through the Division III budget), members would vote on the proposal at the 2012 Convention. At this point, such a proposal isn’t likely to come from the governance structure.
For now, the discussion will continue. And that discussion, said Division III Vice President Dan Dutcher, has been collaborative.
“The discussions thus far have been broad-based and have involved many constituents,” he said. “That kind of thoughtful and division-wide vetting process will continue on this important issue.”