University’s athletic drug policy explained

A first glance, the Fresno State athletics drug policy seems to have a section outlining how an athlete can use drugs and get away with it. Fresno State does not have a policy where athletes can “beat the system.”

The policy, called “safe harbor,” is outlined in the student-athlete compliance handbook as an outlet for athletes to get help if they have an abusive, substance-related problem.

The athletics department doesn’t have a “secret option” to help the star athletes if they fail a university drug test. Nearly every other university in the nation has the same policy.

According to the policy, “safe harbor” refers to a period of time in which a student is participating in a treatment program when positive drug tests do not count as positives within the substance program, as long as those test results indicate decreased drug use.”

Random drug tests are given monthly to 10 percent of student-athletes. Fresno State Athletic Director Thomas Boeh said that sometimes the testing is not completely random.

“We will test athletes if there is a suspicion of abuse,” Boeh said. “If trainers, doctors or coaches see something out of the ordinary, we will test the athlete outside the random pool.”

Normally, student-athletes who are randomly selected are given at least 12 hours notification of a drug test.

“The moment the athlete is notified of a drug test, that student cannot claim safe harbor as a way around a first positive,” senior associate athletic director Betsy Mosher said.

Mosher also said that athletes who test positive have to undergo monthly drug testing — even if they are testing negative. After an athlete tests positive once, he or she is tested for a year.

After that year of negative test results, the student has two choices. He or she can have the first positive taken away but still have monthly tests, or the athlete can keep their first positive and be put back into the random drug-testing pool.

“We created that [part of the policy] because someone might test positive their first year and then if they had a positive their senior year, it would count as their second positive and they could lose a lot of time,” Mosher said.

Boeh said the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) does not have a testing program, so it is up to each school to come up with an appropriate system.

“The NCAA does have some testing, but only at championships where the pool is equally random,” Boeh said.

The NCAA policy is stricter than the Fresno State policy. A positive test from the NCAA can result in disqualification from the competition and the loss of one year of eligibility.

“Immediately after they use the safe harbor policy, we test the athlete to create a base line, so for marijuana we set a THC level,” Boeh said. “Then they have to complete a series of four 12-step programs and they have to show a declining use of the abused substance over a 45-day period.”

The Fresno State drug testing program normally tests for recreational drugs but can also test for steroids.

Boeh also said the safe harbor policy is there if a student-athlete just needs help. The athlete has to go through all of the drug education programs very quickly and if the athlete tests positive after the 45-day safe harbor period, it is considered a positive result.

According to the policy, an increased substance level during safe harbor is considered a positive, and sanctions consistent with a second positive are applied.

Athletes are given three strikes with the drug policy, and each positive adds more punishment until permanent dismissal after a third positive. Also, all incoming student-athletes are given a drug test, but the test cannot count as a first positive.

“This year’s new athletes did a fantastic job,” Mosher said. “All of our athletes do a great job and we stack up pretty well.”

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