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Georgia Tech Athletics Considers Changing Punitive Drug Policies

Maureen Meehan

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Georgia Tech Athletics Considers Changing Punitive Drug Policies

Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury thinks it’s time to take a look at the university’s substance abuse policy, including marijuana. He believes drug policies should be based on expert research. Stansbury and other school officials could take steps to make the drug policies less punitive.

Georgia Tech’s Drug Policies for Student-Athletes

“We’ve got to remember that we’re educators, so (we should be) coming from a philosophy of education,” Stansbury told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That has a lot to do with how the policy is set up and really relying on research and the experts.”

Georgia Tech athletes, like most college football players, are subject to random drug testing, before the season, upon reasonable suspicion and during postseason or championship competition.

Banned substances include illicit drugs, masking agents and steroids. Taking prescription medication without a prescription is also not permitted.

Most universities still apply the “three strikes” policy, under which athletes who are caught with drugs in their system three times are suspended from all sports teams and their financial aid is revoked. This often results in the student having to drop out of school.

Stansbury intends to look at the school’s three strikes policy specifically and random drug testing policies more generally. “You try to make it so that the consequences aren’t punitive and it’s not a ‘gotcha’ type of deal,” he said.

College sports teams across the country are grappling with how to update their traditionally strict rules. Ethan Saliba, University of Virginia’s head athletic trainer, said the goal is deterring and treating drug use, not punishing students.

“We’re not here to hurt kids, is the point,” Saliba said. “If you have those rules and those (punitive) consequences, are you sure that’s helping the kid?”

It’s worth remembering that these “kids” are the same college athletes who bring billions of dollars into the NCAA, but who see none of the profit, except for their scholarships—which can be taken from them for smoking weed.

A survey from the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research showed that 39 percent of college students had used marijuana in the previous year, and 22 percent in the past 30 days.

Final Hit: Georgia Tech Athletics Considers Changing Punitive Drug Policies

Stansbury, aware of shifting perceptions regarding marijuana use, acknowledged that so long as cannabis is on the NCAA’s banned substance list and as long as it’s illegal in Georgia, his goal is education, behavior modification and helping Tech athletes make better decisions.

“So it’s an incredibly complex set of issues that I think everybody’s trying to get their arms around,” he said.

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