SI published part three of its salacious series about the cesspool that is Oklahoma State athletics. The chapter about drugs is our third and final appetizer before the feverish sexposé on Friday. SI establishes that tens of Oklahoma State players over the past decade used marijuana and a handful or two dealt it to fellow students. A few players snorted cocaine and used painkillers or codeine. Not noted: that would have been the same from a random sampling of Oklahoma State students over the same time frame.
Oklahoma State’s drug policy was not especially stringent or effective at curbing usage. SI notes that former player Victor Johnson believes the university stopped protecting him when he failed a drug test after he got hurt. SI does not mention that Johnson was arrested in the Summer of 2010 for marijuana possession, while still an Oklahoma State player, after he admitted failing two drug tests.
Coaches, including Mike Gundy SI alleges, made jokes to players about marijuana usage. We suspect they probably made some terrible ones about their fat little girlfriends as well.
There are a few points that should be made here…
There’s a fundamental difference between “I saw this” and “I understood this to be true.” We’re talking about a group of 100 to 120 guys. Players gossip. Stories get inflated. The truth is nebulous.
I went to an all guys’ high school with about that many guys in my grade. Everyone was convinced everyone else was doing hard drugs all the time. Everyone assumed the guys whose parents were large donors received special treatment. The amount of firm, first-hand knowledge was scant. I developed a reputation for being a pot head. The basis for that reputation was I had long hair, wore a necklace and was largely a mystery since I took honors and AP classes with the same 20-25 guys for four years.
My school felt the drug problem was so pervasive it locked us down randomly during the school day and had police dogs search backpacks and cars. From 600 or so backpacks and 400 or so cars, the search turned up inconclusive marijuana residue on one person’s floor mat.
When players say things such as “drugs were everywhere,” “we probably would have lost 15-20 people who actually played” or even star player X was getting special treatment, those aren’t necessarily precise statements of fact and should not be accepted at face value.
It needs to be made clear how much drug use constitutes “a problem.” 26.7 percent of college football players admitted using marijuana. That’s roughly in line with the admitted usage rate of the student body at large. We can presume that’s an underestimation of the actual rate of usage. Conservatively, 35 kids on a football team using marijuana would be normal for any major college program. One could run into just about every program in the country, point to a group of players using and scream “DRUG CULTURE” and “EPIDEMIC.” Without context or a problem threshold, that’s neither meaningful nor intellectually valid.
Harsh crack downs on drug use may make a moral stand. That’s about all they accomplish.The rate of marijuana use in the United States is higher than the Netherlands. Despite millions upon millions being poured yearly into “the war on drugs”marijuana use on college campuses has increased. Athletic departments have leeway to enact their own recreational drug policies. It’s not clear even the most stringent polices deter usage. When done correctly, counseling, education and behavior modification is more humane and probably more effective.
It’s not clear why football programs at public universities should have recreational drug policies in the first place. For tax and revenue sealing purposes, these kids are not under an employment contract. They are receiving financial assistance to attend a university. When a school dispenses financial aid to a non-athlete, they do not randomly test them for recreational drugs and threaten to take away funding.
Testing for PEDs to ensure a competitive playing field is justified. Beyond that, there’s no reason, under the present regime, that students who happen to be athletes and receive financial aid should be treated differently regarding recreational drugs. Marijuana is illegal, you say? Fine. That should be a matter for law enforcement, like the rest of the population.
[Photo via USA Today Sports]