The NCAA is set to make a change to their drug testing procedures, specifically relating to their marijuana testing. The NCAA plans to reduce the testing threshold and the news rules will go in to motion in August. Previously, the marijuana threshold that triggered a positive test was fifteen nanograms per milliliter of blood. The new number will be to five nanograms.
Changes in the thresholds are being made to more accurately determine marijuana usage among student-athletes.
According to the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport, they will also be pushing for lesser punishments for positive marijuana tests because they do not consider the drug to be a performance enhancer. Punishment for a positive test is currently a full season, but the hope is to reduce the suspensions to half a season.
“The CSMAS recommendations are a step forward in drug testing and education,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline.
“There is no good scientific evidence that marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug, and it makes both scientific and philosophical sense to treat marijuana usage by student-athletes differently than anabolic-androgenic steroid use. We want to deter use, but it is also our moral responsibility to try to change the behavior of student-athletes who may be abusing street drugs such as marijuana.”
That change would not go into effect until 2014.
But if marijuana is not a performance enhancer, why does the NCAA test for it? Hainline did not shy away from that question.
“The World Anti-Doping Agency lists three reasons for drug testing in sport: (1) to prevent cheating through the use of performance-enhancing substances and methods; (2) to deter athletes from ingesting substances that may harm the athlete’s health; and (3) to deter athletes from ingesting substances or engaging in doping methods that are contrary to the spirit of sport,” the group explained. “Whereas the CSMAS rightly focused on the fact that marijuana and other street drugs are not performance enhancing, the committee also recognizes that the universe of sport is special, and the student-athlete is obliged to embrace the spirit of sport. We do not believe that student-athletes should be ingesting marijuana and other street drugs, and we believe that a combination of penalties coupled with behavioral intervention is the most balanced approach to this issue.”
The new rules will really force student-athletes to think twice about what they put in their bodies. It would be possible for a student to test positive for marijuana one month after puffing on a joint and elevating themselves for a night.
Since the threshold is lower starting August 2013, but suspension reductions won’t take place until 2014, it will be interesting to see if there is an increase in suspensions among NCAA student-athletes this season.