The recent arrests of four South Arkansas residents for the manufacture and sale of anabolic steroids and human growth hormones have the attention of at least two people responsible for the management of intercollegiate athletics in the region.
Athletes at all levels of sports have been known to use anabolic steroids and HGHs to gain competitive advantage. The chemical compounds build muscle and bone mass, but also pose health hazards to their users.
Their use in college athletics is illegal.
“Beyond the shadow of a doubt, it is cheating. There's a lot of gray area in the off-field world of college athletics. This isn't one of those places,” Will Prewitt, commissioner of the NCAA Division II Great American Conference, said about the use of anabolic steroids.
However, detecting their use isn’t so simple, and it’s one of the reasons why athletes who use them may get away with it.
Prewitt said the NCAA performs random drug tests in-season and at championship events, and has many educational programs that tackle substance abuse.
“Many Division II member schools have their own drug testing programs. The amount of testing, the penalty structure, and substances tested for vary by institution. This has been a subject that has garnered a lot of discussion recently across the division. Specifically, should performance enhancing drugs take precedent over street drugs (marijuana) in the testing protocols? Should testing be completely random or on a suspicion of use basis?” Prewitt said in an email exchange with magnoliareporter.com.
“I believe that the Big Ten is the only conference in the NCAA that performs their own testing. It's not something that we would be able to handle at the conference level for most of us. There's no way that our four-person staff has the money, expertise, or time to even begin contemplating coordinating a testing program in the GAC,” Prewitt said.
NCAA student athletes who test positive for anabolic steroids are subject to a year of suspension from play. A second offense would cost a student-athletic his or her eligibility permanently.
If a student did test positive, Prewitt would not necessarily come to hear about it. The NCAA and member schools don’t share this information with athletic conferences due to privacy rules, Prewitt said.
Steve Browning, athletic director at Southern Arkansas University, said student-athletics are obvious targets for people who want to sell illegal substances.
“We just have to trust in the fact that our student-athletes are well informed on the rights and wrongs of what society can throw at them,” Browning said via email.
“We follow the NCAA guidelines when it comes to steroids. The NCAA visits at least once a year to our campus and performs a random drug test with each sport. They have even been known to actually perform a drug test during the summer and actually go to house of the student-athletes to perform random test,” Browning said.
SAU athletic trainer Ken Cole and his staff “do a very good job” discussing with athletes the hazards of anabolic steroids and HGHs, and other banned substances, Browning said.
Because of privacy rules, Browning can’t say whether or not an SAU athletic has ever failed a test for anabolic steroids or HGHs.
“My view is just like most people's view when it comes to the substances. They are illegal, therefore I believe it is wrong to use them. I would be concerned with the long-term effect that these drugs could have on your body,” Browning said.
“From the coaching standpoint I try to address to my players that when you make these type of choices you not only affect yourself, but your family, your teammates, and this university,” he said.