UNM Athletics Touts Rigor in Drug Compliance Programs

The UNM training room facilities offers athletes information on NCAA drug policies to help them better understand the rules of compliance. (Katherine Whiting/ NM News Port)

Despite allegations of mistreated players and compromised drug tests leveled against University of New Mexico head football coach Bob Davie, the UNM Athletic Department doesn’t seem phased.

NM Fishbowl first reported the allegations leveled at Davie by unnamed sources in September. UNM spokesperson Cinnamon Blair confirmed there is an investigation underway in athletics.

Student- athletes spend much of their time interacting with athletic trainers in the UNM training room facilities. Athletic trainers are able to advise athletes which supplements are approved for consumption through the NCAA.(Katherine Whiting/ NM News Port)

Leaders in UNM athletics are quick to cite the rigorous standards of The National Collegiate Athletic Association drug testing program.

“We don’t really have any NCAA-like compliance issues,” said Eric Schultz, the UNM Associate Assistant Director of Compliance. “Our coaches and staff understand the rules,” he said. “I answer 50 to 60 questions a day from coaches and student-athletes.”

Schultz said that UNM is under the same microscope as other large NCAA Division 1 universities, and is held to the same standards. NCAA Division 1 universities encompass the highest level of collegiate sports, as well as athletes.

Additionally, Schultz says the athletic department avoids conflict with compliance by referring to written rules when questions arise.

Schultz says that the coaches at UNM are welcome to implement additional drug testing rules aside from NCAA regulation. However, Schultz says he has not had to deal with the abuse of banned substances, such as marijuana, cocaine or steroids by UNM athletes.

“Within the last 16 months of working in the department, I have never had any athlete come to me and admit any problems or issues with alcohol or drugs,” Schultz said.

The UNM training room facilities offers athletes information on NCAA drug policies to help them better understand the rules of compliance.
(Katherine Whiting/ NM News Port)

Although, if an athlete were to test positive during a drug test, coaches would be notified and the result would be handed to the NCAA.

Deputy Athletic Director of Internal Operations, Janice Ruggiero said, “all athletes go through drug policy trainings, but different teams will have additional spokespeople brought in to talk about drug use,” says Ruggiero.

“Every coach does something that may be a little different…but everybody talks at some point with them [athletes] about that [drug use],” Ruggiero said. “The football team, for example, has their strength and conditioning coach talk to them.”

Schultz says that if an athlete does test positive during a drug test, he or she will reap the consequences.

“Sit a year and lose a year” says Schultz. “According to the NCAA if you test positive you are suspended for a year and you lose a year of eligibility.”

Shultz says responsibility falls on athletes just as much as it does staff to create a drug free environment.

“It all depends on student- athletes upbringing and where they grew up and what they want to get involved with. Everyone’s an adult and can make their own decisions” he says. “We do everything we can to inform our staff and athletes on the rules.”  

NCAA Study Documents Low Drug Use by Athletes

The NCAA conducted a survey and dubbed A National Study of Substance Use Habits of College Student-Athletes. The final report of 2014 included all active member institutions of the NCAA using a random sampling procedure with over 20,000 participants.

The survey included five sections. The sections included: Institutional and background information, substance use experience, substance information and sources, prescription drugs and dietary substances, and drug use.

After testing all three NCAA divisions (1-3), the survey concluded that division 1 athletes had the lowest marijuana usage rate at 16% in 2013, and was also very low on cocaine usage as well. The survey showed that typically Division 1 college athletes show the least amount of drug and alcohol use.

The NCAA 2017 substance survey is still underway. However, it is aimed to further the study of student- athlete substance use and patterns.

Additionally, the results of the survey showed that NCAA athletes reported lower substance-use rates than the general population. But, the results also show a rise in prescription drug use and an approximate 23% of student- athletes using pain medication in the last year.

Schultz mentioned that issues with banned substance use within the UNM Athletic Department is rare.

The NCAA does permit athletes to ingest certain banned substances due to legitimate medical conditions like ADHD. However, all should be documented in medical records on file within the athletic department.

In addition, athletic trainers use a website called Drug Free Sport that allows supplements to be run through a database. The results of the test can show potential hazards or ingredients that may result in a positive drug test if consumed by athletes.

Lobo Athletes Get the Message

Q’ Drennan, a wide receiver for the football team says, “we’re tested randomly and sometimes they’ll tell us the day before, or even 6 in the morning the day of.”

Q’ Drennan says complying with drug testing rules is straightforward because athletes go to various seminars and sessions on rules. (courtesy: UNM Football Roster)

He says the team had to attend various seminars on drug use and policies.

“They talk to us about what’s allowed, like what protein shakes we can drink, and also the obvious stuff like marijuana and alcohol use,” says Drennan.

Alexa Cabrales, a senior on the women’s soccer team, says she is very aware of the rules and regulations against substance use.

“We go over it at the beginning of every year as a team and sign our consent forms,” says Cabrales. “Do not use illegal substances, because if you do, you are off the team- no exceptions.”

Cabrales says she takes the compliance rules and her playing time very seriously, personally choosing to stay away from alcohol and drugs given what is at stake for her and her team.

However, Cabrales does think that an increase in regulated drug testing would benefit Lobo athletes as a whole in order to the most fair and level playing field for all Lobo athletes.

Future Drug Testing Rules

Janice Ruggiero, the Deputy Athletic Director for Internal Operations, said that she and UNM Interim President Chaouki Abdullah were already considering a change in drug testing policies to improve the athletic department. She said she isn’t sure what it will look like, but is interested in determining what kinds of tests are actually needed for the athletes. A new policy would also take into account the cost of tests.

“Depending on what you do, it can range from $10,000 a year to $80,000 a year,” says Ruggiero. “That amount is for the entire department and the new policy would budget testing between $20,000 to $30,000 a year,” she says.

The specifics of the new policy have not been announced, but both Schultz and Ruggiero say they are confident that the UNM Athletic Department is in full compliance standings with the NCAA, and hopes to make future improvements once the new drug testing policy is implemented.