Opinion: An argument for a stricter student-athlete steroid policy at Boise State

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The competitive atmosphere in college sports often serves as a breeding ground for self-doubt and desperation. Athletes find themselves in competition with others and may feel the need to engage in drug use that could give them a physical advantage.

Whether purely to compete or to recover from injury, the desire to take performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) or steroids is understandable. Take Julian Edelman, receiver for the New England Patriots, for example. The desire to nurse his ACL injury and return to the field was enough to entice Edelman into PED use.

Not only do these drugs create an unfair competitive atmosphere, they put the abusers at risk of severe, damaging side effects.

Athletes who use PEDs and steroids often find themselves subject to paranoia, irritability, delusions and an array of other mental issues. After long periods of use, the abuser’s personality  can fade away and make their social behaviors unrecognizable.

On PEDs or steroids, athlete’s bodies can undergo several undesired changes, such as the growth or reduction of breasts, voice deepening and balding. More extreme consequences include kidney, liver, reproductive and cardiovascular failure. 

Due to their drastic impacts, the possession, sale and use of these drugs is illegal for all United States citizens without prescription under The Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990.  Despite this, such substances continue to entice collegiate athletes. Therefore, it is evident that the existing punishments for these behaviors are not as extreme as necessary. 

According to the NCAA website, an athlete’s first positive drug test results in the loss of a full year of eligibility, or 25% of their remaining time in the NCAA. The second positive test removes all future eligibility.

At Boise State, athletes are also tested by school-mandated examinations that follow a separate protocol from the federal regulation. The Boise State Student Handbook details the punishments of first and second offenses of hormones and steroids:

First offense: The correct authorities will be notified. The student has to speak with the Deputy Athletic Director or SWA and notify their legal guardians and / or spouse of their results. The student is required to attend counseling, release their drug records to the team physician and is subject to random drug-testing. The athlete is suspended from at least 50% of the year’s competition schedule.

Second offense: The student is “immediately and permanently” released from all sports teams at Boise State and they will lose much or all of their athletic grant-in-aid.

Although the policies of Boise State and the NCAA are similar, Boise State’s lesser punishment for the first offense raises the question of where the Athletic Department’s priorities lie.  

Does Boise State University value player performance over player integrity?

While this question cannot be answered definitively, the relative leniency of Boise State’s student-athlete drug policy displays the demonstrates the push to get athletes back in the game in a shorter amount of time. This communicates that Boise State sports are forgiving of steroid use in an effort to maintain a strong roster.

For some athletes, the minimal punishment for steroids could be outweighed by the so-called “benefits,” encouraging steroid use and putting more athletes at risk.

In order to protect collegiate athletes and establish an honest athletic environment, BSU needs to increase penalties for the use of steroids and similar drugs. 

If more student-athletes are afraid of the repercussions, less would partake in PED and steroid abuse. An increase in first-offense suspension times would have a large impact on steroid presence.

For first-time offenders, a positive drug test should result in a minimum suspension of an entire year of eligibility, the same as the NCAA’s regulation. Longer suspensions would be necessary if the student overdosed or the student’s urine contained levels that could result in an overdose.

In addition to suspension and other consequences in the Student-Athlete Handbook, the NCAA and professional sports teams should be notified of the student’s steroid use after their first positive drug test. That way, the athlete’s drug history would follow them from team to team and ultimately hinder their chances of a future in athletics.

This severe first-time offense would likely result in a lower number of repeat and first-time offenders. 

Boise State University should hold the same standards as the NCAA, if not higher. Stricter standards would cultivate athletes that rely solely on their talent and hard work, not on drugs that enhance their abilities at the expense of their health and well-being.

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