Eighteen athletes were tested by KSC athletic department and three tested positive for marijuana

Michelle Berthiaume

Social Media Director


At 7 a.m. on Monday, March 30, 2012, 18 Keene State College spring athletes gathered in a private room in the Spaulding Gymnasium to submit to a mandatory drug test.

KSC Athletic Director John Ratliff said that an outside company called Drug Free Sport administered the drug tests.

Ratliff added that this is the same company that does drug testing at NCAA championships.

Although Ratliff declined to release the names, teams, or results of the athletes tested, he did confirm that three spring-sport athletes failed the test.

“The positive tests that came back were for marijuana only,” Ratliff said.

The punishment for testing positive for street drugs at KSC increases based on the number of times someone tests positive.

It was not confirmed or denied whether the three athletes that failed the drug test this time around were facing their first, second or third offenses.

According to the student handbook, a first offense carries the penalty of a four-game suspension or 25 percent of the season, whichever is less.

A second offense holds the penalty of an eight-game suspension or 50 percent of the season, whichever is less.

Following a third positive drug test, the athlete is no longer allowed to play a sport at KSC.

Robert Colbert, assistant athletic director and men’s basketball coach, said that an educational component also comes along with a positive drug test.

He said that athletes must be evaluated by health services along with setting up a meeting with the counseling center to talk about the drug use.

The penalties for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs are much more severe.

According to the student-athlete handbook, a first offense carries an eight-game, or 50 percent of the season, suspension. Following a second offense, the athlete is kicked off the team.

“I have a very strong perspective on the use performance-enhancing drugs. That’s straight out cheating. And I am obviously very against that,” Colbert said.

The Keene State College student-athlete handbook states, “As a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, (KSC) prohibits student-athletes from the non-prescribed use of substances described by the NCAA as ‘Banned Drug Classes.’ The misuse of prescription drugs, alcohol, or any other controlled or illegal substances are also prohibited.”

The handbook also discusses the two different types of testing that an athlete may come across at KSC.

“We have institutionalized testing, which is what we just did. In other words, we are doing this as a school, as an institution, as an athletic department. Secondly, we have the NCAA championship testing. So if any of our teams get to the point where they are in NCAA championships, they can be tested by the NCAA,” Colbert said.

Ratliff said a student who tests positive at an NCAA championship faces a one-year suspension from college athletics. Earlier this year, the Keene State College field hockey team made it all the way to the NCAA Division III tournament in Brunswick, Maine.

Following its first-round game against Endicott College, five members of the team were drug tested by Drug Free Sport for the NCAA according to KSC field hockey coach, Amy Watson.

“They told us ahead of time that they would be drug testing athletes. Right after the game, the players were told they had to do the test. We shook hands, and then the NCAA took the girls with them. They weren’t even allowed to leave the field. They had to leave the field with the NCAA tester,” Watson said.

Watson said that the five girls passed the test.

“Since they end up doing the drug tests at the NCAA tournaments, I think it’s okay to do it here on campus. It reminds the athletes that these drug tests will happen. I know people get stressed out about it. It’s a big deal to the NCAA though,” Watson said.

She added that maybe letting the athletes know about the reality of the drug tests ahead of time isn’t such a bad thing.

At the beginning of every season, Ratliff discusses this reality by holding a meeting with all of the teams.

He takes this time to go over the policies that the athletes must abide by throughout the season.

According to KSC senior and softball player Courtney Savoie, Ratliff also takes this time to discuss the two different types of drug tests.

“He goes over the NCAA testing and he also goes over the institutionalized testing. He goes through all the information with us. He tells us what the suspensions are for all the offenses. So we know that getting drug tested is a possibility,” Savoie said.

Savoie said she was among the 18 tested on March 30.

Savoie described the process of getting drug tested as very strict.

“It was just very structured and very serious. For as much as we were trying to joke around and lighten things up, it was very rigid,” she said.

Taylor Sorlis, a freshman on the women’s lacrosse team and one of the drug-tested athletes also described the process as very serious.

“You couldn’t wear a sweatshirt, hat, or baggy clothes. They checked around your waist to make sure you weren’t hiding anything,” Sorlis said.

“The athletes were notified 24 to 48 hours prior. They reported at 7 a.m. to the testing site here on campus. And they gave a sample. And as soon as they gave a (urine) sample, they were done,” Colbert said.

He added that the results for the street drug test took about a week to come back.

But the athletic department said that it still hasn’t heard back about the performance-enhancing drug testing.

“We have had zero positive drug tests for performance-enhancing drugs in the past and that’s good news. I am really pleased with that statistic,” Ratliff said.

Although drug testing is a useful tool for the KSC athletic department to keep athletes healthy, it is a very controversial topic in Division III athletics.

“People say [we] shouldn’t be doing it because the kids aren’t on scholarship in Division III. But at the end of the day, we are just trying to make sure that our kids are living healthy lives,” Colbert said.

“I think that the drug testing keeps the athletes honest and it keeps people focused. I know they do it at the Division I and Division II level so I think it’s good that they’re holding us to that high of a standard,” Savoie said.

Most coaches at KSC agree with the drug testing policy, but that doesn’t mean that they are happy about it.

“I think it’s sad that we have to do this. It’s sad that athletics have come to the point where kids feel that they either need to enhance their performances or that they’re not smart enough to not use drugs that are clearly going to affect their performance,” Charlie Beach, KSC softball coach, said.

“I feel bad that we are in a culture where we need to do things like this. But I feel good that we have the guts to do it,” Colbert said.

One thing that holds the KSC athletic department back from doing these drug tests more often is the high costs of the testing.

“I am decidedly in favor of it. I wish we had the money to do more drug tests. The only thing that restricts us from a greater and more comprehensive drug testing policy is that we simply can’t afford it,” KSC volleyball coach Bob Weiner said.

“It’s very expensive to test the athletes. I would be much more inclined to do it more regularly if the expenses were not as high as they are,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff added that the test for street drugs is about $75 per athlete and the test for performance-enhancing drugs is about $150 per athlete.

“That comes out to a lot of money with 500 athletes to test,” Weiner said.

But why test at all?

Ratliff said, “The reason we did it this year was because we had a reason to suspect drug use. There was a party at a house where drugs were involved.”

Ratliff added that whenever he has a reason to suspect that drugs are becoming an issue, he can test the athletes.

The student-athlete handbook reads, “Keene State College promotes a healthy lifestyle and competitive environment by creating an opportunity to learn about the effects of certain drugs and to participate in a drug-free environment. The implementation of drug education, drug-screening, and drug counseling programs serve the College’s goal of educating and protecting the health and well being of each student-athlete.”

Their athletes’ health is one thing that most every coach at KSC is concerned about.

“If drug use was an issue on my team, I would dig into [it] a little deeper. I would try and find out if it was a problem. And if it is, I would help them get help. And definitely encourage them to make better decisions,” Watson said.

“There’s recreational drug use and then there’s problematic drug use. There are people that would be more prone to addictive behaviors than others. And we try to get to know our kids so that we can pick up on this before it happens,” Weiner said.

Although some people are unhappy with the drug testing policy, KSC will continue to drug test when needed.

Robert Colbert said that the drug testing is a “necessary evil.”

KSC Baseball Coach Ken Howe declined to comment on the matter.


Michelle Berthiaume can be contacted at mberthiaume@keene-equinox.com


Share and Enjoy !