THROWBACK THURSDAY – Student-athletes dreaded the phone call at night from the training room saying that you were randomly selected to be drug-tested in the morning. You had to get yourself to the training room between 7-8 am the next morning, urinate in a cup – sometimes with a trainer or graduate-student trainer watching you to make sure it was your pee hitting the cup for the sample if you were chosen for direct observation – then you had to hustle back to campus to be on time for your 9 am class.
I know it was mortifying for the trainers more than anyone else. Some of the trainers and graduate assistants were almost like friends to most of us given how much time we spent in the training room trying to recover or rehab for the next game or contest. The trainers knew the vast majority of athletes at Northwestern were not doping – not the women for sure – so it all felt ridiculous and a waste of time. I just looked up the issue online and found one graphic that stated Ohio State does 2,200 student-athlete drug tests each year.
Yet administrators will argue – and understandably so – that the testing is for the well-being of students under a lot of pressure in the public spotlight as much as it is to prevent the use of banned substances to enhance performance. Back in our day, I believe that the worst violation was a football player or two who liked smoking weed. We heard that it could stay in your system longer than alcohol or other drugs (not sure of the details because I didn’t have to worry). I think the biggest paranoia for most was prescribed meds showing up as positive or second-hand weed smoke – how much of it would make that test come up positive for a second-hand smoke inhaler?
I didn’t hang out with people who smoked weed – not in front of me anyway, and I don’t now. I have always been terrible at drinking or smoking. Any of my friends or family would tell you this. I’d never do hard drugs because in my mind 1) I didn’t want to 2) I’d be kicked off a team, or 3) in my head, I’d be suspended or kicked off, and that one case who died on the first try. I recently dated a guy in the entertainment industry. One night he noted how strong the smell of weed was coming from the basement downstairs, which grew so much worse in the middle of winter. I told him I didn’t really notice or wasn’t sure, and he said, “What? Not sure. That’s awful.”
On one of our earlier dates, without any pressure, he asked me if I smoke weed. “No,” I said. “Because if I do, I’ll lose my eligibility.” This was a stretch, of course, and my odd way of saying, no. An athlete, I think, would be suspended, if caught using a banned substance. In my head missing one game for something so dumb was the equivalent of losing my eligibility.
My date said to me, “But you don’t have any eligibility left.”
I admitted that weed, drugs and I don’t hit it off. Plus I coach kids. Doesn’t work for me.
“Have you ever tried it?” he asked me a few weeks later as he placed a joint down on his coffee table, and I just stared at it and winced. I told him no.
I then explained to him what I wrote in my last blog. If I were to smoke weed, not only would my recurring dream of regaining my eligibility take place that same night, but my college coach, academic advisor, and assistant coaches would be all over my case in that dream times 10. The trainer would take my urine sample, and run it up to them and turn in the evidence in front of all of them right in the middle of practice where I am flailing around, doing absolutely nothing well except hanging on to the dream. They’d say your eligibility is back, Mo, and then they’d say, no wait, nope, not anymore—all because of dope. I’m sure my date is still doing his thing, which I guess is what works for him. I also think that weed is right for people with serious medical issues. In addition, I believe we are far harder on the dealer as opposed to the recreational user who drives the demand. Yet I personally know that hard drinking led to pot smoking and then to a heroin and valium addiction, all of which ended up killing Colleen Flanigan, the most beautiful young woman in my neighborhood.
I think it’s one of those things where people will get away with what they can get away with, and you hope they get off the train before it heads off the rails. In my case, I not only hated it and the thought of breaking the law in this regard, but in being an athlete, I was told me there were rules in place with harsh, embarrassing and public repercussions. And that – for most young men and women during their experimental years in college – is not a bad thing.