Editorial: Despite growing pains, drug-free athletics laudable

North Wind Staff

Comic Credit: Mary Wardell
Comic Credit: Mary Wardell

Failed drug tests are certainly a blemish on the football team and NMU athletics as a whole, but Northern’s Student Athlete Drug Education and Testing Policy is a bold initiative that will ultimately strengthen the program.

NMU Athletic Director Forrest Karr, who led this effort, deserves commendation for this program, even in its infancy.The policy is aggressive and serves as a deterrent to players seeking to use performance-enhancing or recreational drugs.

This policy goes above and beyond NCAA guidelines, and NMU leads its peers in this area.While the punishment is severe—a player is automatically suspended for 10 percent of their games or events for their first positive drug test—the policy succeeds in providing athletes any needed education or assistance.

Beyond the suspension, athletes are required to submit to counseling for evaluation and complete 20 hours of community service.The policy also contains a “safe harbor” provision, allowing players to self-report drug use without consequences, provided they successfully undergo counseling and treatment.

While the policy is new, Karr has stated it will be revisited annually to ensure that it continues to serve the interests of Northern’s student-athletes across 13 inter-collegiate sports.

In addition to Karr, three coaches, two athletic council representatives, one administrative staff member, the head team physician, the head athletic trainer, one additional athletic trainer and two student-athletes from the Student Athletic Advisory Committee will audit the policy yearly and make any necessary changes.

These individuals represent a broad swath of NMU athletics and will be an asset to the program’s integrity. While there will be growing pains, as have been revealed this week, this policy is a great first step in reaching Karr’s goal of a drug-free athletic program and his efforts are admirable.