Oregon trying random drug testing

Updated: September 7, 2012, 3:18 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

EUGENE, Ore. -- The University of Oregon is implementing random drug testing of all its athletes after an ESPN The Magazine report earlier this year estimated that between 40 and 60 percent of the football team smoked marijuana.

Oregon's previous drug policy allowed for testing when there was reasonable suspicion. A recent decision by the general counsel gives temporary permission for random testing, effective this month. The policy still faces a public hearing in early October.

ESPN The Magazine's April report was based on interviews with 19 current or former Oregon players and officials, and it accompanied a larger piece that looked at marijuana use among college football players nationwide.

In July, Oregon's athletic department proposed the changes to strengthen its drug policy. Under it, student-athletes would be subject to random tests year-round, even during the summer. A number system would identify athletes for testing.

The random tests have not begun, according to university officials.

While Oregon's athletic department proposed the changes to strengthen its substance-abuse policy, the school actually lessened the penalty for student-athletes with a third positive test.

In 2010,, Oregon's substance-abuse policy, obtained through a public records request by ESPN, indicated the "continuing use of tested-for drugs on two occasions beyond the initial positive test, the student-athlete shall be expelled from the team and shall lose all athletic grant-in-aid support beginning with the next academic term."

However, under the current policy, a third positive test only results in missing 50 percent of games played in a season. If a player's ineligibility is not complete by the end of postseason play, it carries over to the next season.

Student-athletes receive counseling and education after a first positive test. A second positive test results in a "behavior modification contract" between the student and the coach. A third results in being suspended half of of the games played in a season for that sport. Dismissal and loss of scholarship does not occur now until a fourth positive test.

For performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids, athletes face suspension after the first positive test and dismissal after the second, which mirrors the NCAA's penalties for performance-enhancing drugs.

Information from ESPN's Brett McMurphy was used in this report.

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