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Proposed drug testing goes before school board

Shannon Darling, Sun News Service

They passed their physicals and classes – but will they pass their drug tests?

Student athletes are expected not only to perform well at games and in class, but with the possible addition of a random drug testing policy, may be expected to stay clean of drugs and alcohol too.

If the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District adopts a new drug and alcohol policy at the next board meeting on Sept. 21, high school athletes will be subject to drug testing.

Some athletes and coaches see this as just another challenge in sports.

“I have no problem with it at all. My only concern is cost, but I am 100 percent in favor of it,” said Bill Freeman, North Tahoe High School varsity football coach.

Freeman is confident his players will come out on top.

“You can test any of my guys at any time,” Freeman said.

Although the board seems to be in favor of the program, a policy will be adopted in the next week that will outline specifics. Right now it is unsure exactly where the money will come from for the testing, or what will happen if a player comes up positive.

“If someone comes up (positive) then that’s how it is,” Freeman said.

It is also unknown exactly what drugs will be tested for.

“I hope they also test for steroids,” Freeman said.

Others agree that there is a need to test for steroids.

“There has been talk that there is a need to test for steroids,” said Todd Porter, athletic director for North Tahoe High School.

One year ago a Student Discipline Committee was formed to look at the increasing trend of alcohol and drug use. Their recommendation for random drug/alcohol testing is in an “effort to encourage students to make healthy decisions during their high school years,” said Jim Abbott, assistant superintendent of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, in a letter to parents sent out this summer, dated June 14.

The letter went on to say the drug testing would mean, “that high school athletes would, as a condition of participating in sports, agree to mandatory, random drug testing.”

But still there are questions that remain.

“There are probably more questions than there are answers,” said Porter.

In the next week both the principals of North Tahoe and Tahoe-Truckee High Schools will meet with Abbott to adopt a policy for both schools. The policy should be complete in one week.

“Coaches and players are in favor (of drug testing),” said Porter.

However, some parents and students question why only athletes are being tested.

“It’s a legitimate question,” said Porter.

According to a Supreme Court ruling, only athletes can be tested at public schools because they are participating in an activity that could prove dangerous if under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“It’s been discussed in concept,” said School Board Member Cindy Gustafson.

The board may adopt the policy in September and if adopted, the policy should be implemented before the end of the fall sports season.

“They really need to give people 60 days and have a public hearing,” said Gustafson.

Part of the process will include a community forum, Porter said.

“(Drug testing) is becoming more and more of a standard,” said Abbott.

However, many students at Tahoe-Truckee High School, both athletes and non-athletes, feel like they are being targeted.

“I’m against it personally,” said senior basketball player Keely Carollo. “I think it’s trying to prove (students) guilty. It’s not like you do drugs during practice – so we already have a drug-free environment.”

Carollo said the issue is being talked about pretty heatedly among students, and added that she was not aware that letters were sent out to students and their families over the summer.

“So, students’ rights are being taken away because they had no warning,” Carollo said. “Drugs not only affect athletics, they affect your ability to do well in school. If they want athletes to be drug-free, they should want the school and all activities to be drug-free.”

Lynsey Pombo, who is a senior not involved with high school athletics, also feels it isn’t fair to students.

“I don’t agree with it either,” Pombo said. “I don’t think they should just test athletes. Everyone in the school is capable of using drugs.”

Dennis Graham, a junior on the high school wrestling team, said he is not totally against the idea.

“I’m kind of for it,” he said. “If you’re dedicated to your sport enough it shouldn’t be an issue … If you smoke pot or whatever, it’s just interfering with your success in your sport.”

Abby Hutchison contributed to this article.


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