Student-athletes take random, required drug tests

Graphic by Rachel Rathjens.

Graphic by Rachel Rathjens.

Doug Brown

Forty-two Kent State student-athletes have failed drug tests since the winter of 2004, mostly for marijuana use, according to data from a series of records requests to the athletic department.

Of the nearly 450 Kent State student-athletes, around 10 percent are randomly selected on several days throughout the semester to be screened for “street drugs.” More athletes can be tested at the request of a coach or athletic department administrator, explained Trent Stratton, Kent State’s sports medicine director, in an email.

Both Stratton and Jennifer Kulics, senior associate athletic director, who oversees sports medicine and athletic training at Kent State, declined interviews about the drug-testing program and chose to communicate solely through email. Kulics referred emailed questions to Stratton.

The tests are administered by the Kent State training staff who send the athlete’s urine sample to the Aegis Science Corporation in Nashville, Tennessee, for analysis, Stratton wrote in an email.

The lab’s “Zero-Tolerance Drug Testing” option, described by their website as “the most accurate drug test available,” screens for more than 400 drugs, including marijuana, amphetamines, opiates, cocaine, ecstasy and barbiturates.

The athletes, either selected randomly or by a coach or administrator, are notified the morning of the tests. A missed test, knowingly or unintentionally, is treated as a positive test and is ineligible until they get tested.

“If there has been a history with a specific group of individuals, we may test more than 10 percent,” Stratton wrote. “The increase in number can be for suspicion.”


Marijuana was the most commonly used drug among Kent State student-athletes who tested positive for a drug, accounting for 27 of 42 failed tests since 2004.

According to a 2007 records request from the Salt Lake Tribune, an average of nearly 40 athletes were tested on 24 days between January 2004 and April 2007 – typically three or four tests per semester. The 958 total tests during that period resulted in 22 positive tests: 14 for marijuana, six for missing their tests, one for cocaine in September 2005 and one for “poppy seed bagel/dressing” in February 2004. (That positive test didn’t count against the athlete.)

Of those 22 positive tests, one athlete tested positive twice for marijuana in 2006 and was suspended, and one athlete left the team after a missed test in February 2007 — it is unclear whether the athlete or athletic department staff made that decision. The athlete who tested positive for cocaine in September 2005 did not test positive any other time, records show.

The sports of the athletes who tested positive during that period were not included in the records requests compiled by former trainer John Faulstick, and Stratton, who became sports medicine director in the spring of 2009, did not have that information available.

From the fall of 2007 through the most recent tests in October, 20 student-athletes tested positive, according to data provided by Stratton: 13 for marijuana, four for opiates and three for missing their tests. There were no positive drug tests during the 2009-2010 school year.

Kulics responded to an emailed request for the total number of athletes tested and the total number of tests on each testing day during that period with an answer from Stratton saying that figure was confidential.

However, a request for the sports of the positive-testing athletes since 2007 was successful. Ten football players failed drug tests during that period: six for marijuana and four for opiates.

Three football players tested positive for opiates in a one-month period last season, and one tested positive for opiates in February. Opiates show up with the use of prescription painkillers such as oxycontin, percocet and vicodin, among others, according to the Aegis Sciences Corporation website.

Without specifically referring to the football players who tested positive for opiates, Stratton confirmed in an email that if an athlete has a legal prescription for a drug, it does not count as a positive test if it shows up in the screening and would not be on the list of failed tests.

Five men’s basketball players tested positive for marijuana since the fall of 2007, including three players who tested positive on the same day last April.

Football and men’s basketball players are the only athletes to test positive for a drug since a women’s basketball player tested positive for marijuana in December 2007, and a member of the gymnastics team tested positive for marijuana two months earlier.

A baseball player missed his test in October 2008, a field hockey player missed her test in October 2007 and a men’s cross-country runner missed his test in September 2007, but all three athletes passed their required make-up test.


According to Kent State’s student-athlete handbook, upon an athlete’s first positive drug test, the team physician contacts the athletic director, who contacts the head coach of the athlete, who then contacts the athlete. The athlete will be suspended from the team until — in the presence of the head coach — the athlete must make two phone calls: first to the team physician to set up an appointment for counseling and a second call to their parents.

The athlete must then go through counseling and additional drug testing, at the player’s expense, or they will be charged with a second positive test.

After a second drug test, the athlete will be suspended for a full calendar year.

Stratton emphasized the importance of working toward no positive tests.

“To me, any number of positives is a problem,” he wrote. “We do understand that college students are trying to balance their freedom from home with freedom to make their own decisions and create their identity but the department does not want any of our student-athletes to be associated with such behavior.


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Comparing results

Emailed requests to all other Mid-American Conference schools on October 24, seeking their drug test results since the fall of 2007, were mostly denied on the grounds that the records are federally protected. Others went ignored.

The University of Akron’s legal office denied a request for the specific dates and sports of athletes who tested positive and the total number of athletes tested, but said a total of 16 athletes tested positive since the fall of 2007. Twenty Kent State athletes tested positive during that period.

A Salt Lake Tribune database has positive drug tests from January 2004 through May 2007 – Kent State had 22 positive tests from 958 total tests during that time and 20 positive tests during the most recent three-year period. Of the MAC schools that responded with both of those figures during that time, Bowling Green tested 147 athletes, and 37 were positive. Western Michigan tested 352 and 16 were positive. Buffalo tested 1,272 athletes from 2005 through fall 2007 and 20 were positive. Central Michigan tested 451 athletes from 2004 through 2006 and 10 were positive. All other MAC schools rejected their records requests.

Contact Doug Brown at [email protected].