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Proposed bill could mandate drug testing for college athletes in Ohio

October 14, 2014
by Julia Brown
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Newly proposed legislation in the Ohio House of Representatives, House Bill 633, could subject athletes attending private and public colleges in the Buckeye State to mandatory drug testing. Repeat offenders would receive team suspensions and also would lose any state-supported financial aid.

Introduced Oct. 8 with bipartisan support, the bill would require drug testing to be administered during annual physicals and prior to participation in any championship games.

Ohio would be the first state to require testing and set penalties for college athletes caught using illegal substances if the measure passes, according to State Rep. Peter Beck (R-Mason), who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Zack Milkovich (D-Akron).

Under the bill, universities in Ohio would be required to implement policies that penalize athletes caught using National College Athletic Association (NCAA)-banned substances ranging from performance-enhancing steroids to marijuana to heroin. Alcohol use is exempt.

Here is a breakdown of the proposed penalties:

  • First violation: Requires completion of an on-campus drug treatment program offered through the university;
  • Second violation: A two-game suspension;
  • Third violation: State-supported financial aid is lost; and
  • Fourth violation: An indefinite suspension is received for the violator’s current sport as well as all additional university sports. 

For athletes at Ohio State University, strict substance-abuse penalties are nothing new. Players are already subjected to random drug tests carried out by the college and the NCAA. Just last month, defensive end Noah Spence was suspended from the football team indefinitely after failing a secondary drug test.

The school’s current policy allows for the testing of players suspected of using drugs or those who have been caught in the past, according to the university, and officials say existing penalties actually would be loosened under the new bill.

Here is a breakdown of Ohio State University drug-abuse penalties:

  • First violation: A substance-abuse intervention;
  • Second violation: A two-week suspension(in some sports, this could mean multiple games); and
  • Third violation: A one-year suspension is received and the loss of all financial aid also could result.

Penalties for steroid use are even more severe at Ohio State.

Athletes caught with performance-enhancing drugs are suspended for 25 percent of their season while repeat offenders are removed from the team indefinitely, according to school officials, who say they hope to work with lawmakers to address some concerns, including cost.  

Although Beck doesn’t believe a drug problem exists in college athletics, he wants to ensure that those who are abusing illegal substances are identified and given treatment. He says the idea for the bill came to him after two Pittsburgh Steelers running backs were charged with marijuana possession in August.  

Mandating substance abuse treatment for athletes early on could help prevent continued abuse throughout their professional careers, according to lawmakers and industry experts.

Beck, who is leaving the Ohio House after 2014, says he’s uncertain whether the bill will pass before the current legislative session ends in December.