By Ken Reed

Steroids have been a big issue in Major League Baseball and the National Football League for years. Meanwhile, steroid abuse hasn’t received much attention in college football.

That’s about to change.

A major investigative report by the Associated Press has revealed that steroid abuse is a significant problem in college football and, for the most part, neither the NCAA or individual schools seem to care.

Matt Apuzo, Adam Goldman, and Jack Gillum uncovered some nuggets in their Associated Press feature.

“With steroids easy to buy, testing weak and punishments inconsistent, college football players are packing on significant weight — 30 pounds or more in a single year, sometimes — without drawing much attention from their schools or the NCAA in a sport that earns tens of billions of dollars for teams,” concluded the report’s authors.

Don Catlin, an anti-doping pioneer and long-time lab researchers, says the collegiate system, in which players often are notified days before a test and many schools don’t even test for steroids, is designed to not catch dopers.

For schools that do test for steroids, players can be notified up to two days in advance, which Catlin says is plenty of time to beat a test if players have designed the right doping regimen.

The NCAA doesn’t have a standardized steroids testing program for its members and punishments for positive steroid tests vary widely among top football programs.

For example, while the University of North Carolina boots players from the program after a single positive test for steroids, Alabama and Notre Dame (this year’s title game participants) have very flexible policies, which give coaches a great deal of latitude. At Alabama, coaches basically decide what should be done, if anything, for a positive steroid test. At Notre Dame, athletes can return to the field as soon as the steroids are out of the players’ systems.

Since rules vary so widely on steroids, on any given game day, a school with a strict no-steroids/no exceptions policy, might be playing a team who has multiple steroid users who haven’t been tested, or — if having received a positive test — punished for their steroid use. It’s a competitive fairness issue.

“Fans typically have no idea that such discrepancies exist and players are left to suspect who might be cheating,” write the authors of AP‘s article.

Big-time college sports, in many ways, might be the most immoral and unethical sports enterprise going today. And yet the key players in the NCAA receive relatively little heat for their corrupt system.

Hopefully, this AP investigative piece is a major step towards changing that.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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