Local News

SFSC considers student athlete drug-testing policy

AVON PARK - Prompted by a request from the athletic department, South Florida State College will consider developing a policy to conduct in-house "unannounced and reasonable suspicion" drug tests of its student athletes.

A proposed policy would also authorize developing new procedures for substance abuse testing of students in programs that require such testing be done.

On the agenda for Wednesday's board of trustees meeting, SFSC President Thomas Leitzel notes that several of the college's allied health program students "practice" in clinical settings, which mandate evidence of drug screening.

"Staff have been sending students to a local laboratory testing facility prior to clinical experiences, and to date, no tests have indicated evidence of substance abuse," he stated.

SFSC Vice President of Administrative Services Glenn Little said Athletic Director Rick Hitt approached the college's administration about drug testing athletes primarily as a deterrent.

"By not having anything in place, it's viewed that, maybe, people might think they can get away with something and not have consequences even though we have not had any significant issues that we are aware of at all," he said. "We recruit good kids and they are students first and athletes second and they have done a great job as good students and good ambassadors for the college."

Little explained that Hitt has become more involved in collegiate athletics at the state and national level and has seen more colleges moving toward a reasonable-suspicion drug testing policy.

Most of the colleges that have implemented such programs have not had any students fail a drug test, Little said. The testing doesn't have to be done often. It's just a matter of getting the word out, he said.

Leitzel also believes the college should have a policy in place, Little said.

Administrators worked with the college's attorney to review the policies of other colleges and universities, he said.

The college's current policies do not allow illegal or misuse of alcohol and drugs.

The proposed policy (No. 1.18) states: "the use of illegal drugs and performance-enhancing substances, as well as the misuse of tobacco, alcohol, legal drugs and over-the-counter medications and supplements, is inconsistent with the standards expected of SFSC students and is thus prohibited."

When the board meets Wednesday, they will discuss the issue for the first time but will not take any official action.

On the agenda, Leitzel suggested the board table the proposed policy. Little explained that proposals are typically tabled one month before being considered by the board of trustees.

"Unless there is some urgency, we always try to give people the opportunity for public input for a whole month," he said.

The college has three athletic programs - women's softball and volleyball and men's baseball.