By Drew Eastland ’21 (he/him), Sports Editor
Davidson Against Drug Policing (DADP) began this summer with a simple mission: start a conversation about the athlete Drug and Alcohol Education and Testing Policy. The group formed when Nico Agosta ’22 filled out his annual summer paperwork as a member of the track and field and cross-country teams. He focused on the policy’s fine print for the first time.
“I was [filling out] some forms that I do annually for Davidson athletics. When I came across this section that asked about drug use, and was asking […] if you have anxiety due to drug use, if you have addiction to drugs, things like that,” Agosta recalled. “I came to this realization that someone with a drug problem could not fill out this form accurately and get the help they need. The same body that is [asking] these questions can drug test you.”
This realization resulted in Agosta forming a new group –– composed mainly of athletes –– dedicated to changing, revising, or even eliminating this policy. Concern with the policy centers around three facets in the language: the “reasonable suspicion” clause, harsh consequences for positive test results, and athletes paying for their own treatment.
Davidson’s Drug and Alcohol Education and Testing policy was instituted in 2015 “after a lengthy period of research and discussion”, according to Katy McNay in the Athletic Department.
Under the reasonable suspicion clause of the Drug and Alcohol Education and Testing Policy, athletes can be subject to a drug test if they exhibit observed, abnormal appearance regarding factors like GPA changes, class attendance, illness, physical changes, emotional condition, and mood changes.
“I’ve only seen reasonable suspicion used once,” Agosta said. “A student who was stopped by police – a student of color – [who] from that stop, the school then tested […] based on reasonable suspicion.”
For privacy reasons, the student remains nameless here, but they were eventually cleared of all charges.
Incidents such as this are a key driving force behind Davidson Against Drug Policing’s mission. The group hopes to prevent future profiling or ill-timed testing that may occur under the reasonable suspicion clause, intentional or otherwise.
If a student tests positive for any banned substances –– both performance-enhancing drugs and recreational substances like marijuana –– the athlete will miss 10 percent of the season for a first offense, face a half-season suspension for a second offense, and be dismissed from the team for a third offense.
These consequences are less severe than the NCAA consequences of a failed drug test which results in an entire season suspension according the the athletic department
Financially, under the policy, a student is responsible to pay for counseling associated with recovery treatment. Davidson Against Drug Policing believes this not only demonstrates a lack of empathy for students dealing with drug problems, but also prevents them from receiving the necessary treatment.
On Thursday, October 8th, Agosta presented his group’s case to the Student Government Association (SGA).
“[Agosta] thought one way we could support [Davidson Against Drug Policing] would be publicly endorsing their plans and goals,” SGA President Brandon Harris ’22 said. “We decided it would be in our best interest to hold back from voting on [endorsing] for now.”
Harris highlighted SGA’s desire for more information on this situation before formally endorsing Davidson Against Drug Policing. From Harris’s perspective, SGA is focused on implementing more broad-strokes approaches to measures they endorse and is emphasizing involvement beyond simple verbal support.
Since Agosta’s SGA general body meeting, he has been working with SGA’s innovation team to discover ways that the SGA can assist Davidson Against Drug Policing going forward. According to Eleni Tsitinidi ‘21, the innovation team is helping DADP formulate an official proposal and is considering organizing a meeting with the athletic director.
“While SGA cannot endorse the initiative yet, we want to empower his group in getting the data required to make a strong case, as well as make sure the idea is heard by the administration.” Tsitinidi explained.
DADP is still tailoring its mission as the group grows in numbers and scope. According to Agosta, Davidson Against Drug Policing began with a simple group chat and has grown to 192 members, or around 40 percent of student-athletes.
Agosta also spoke to the Davidson Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). During this meeting, McNay took questions and responded with queries to Agosta.
“I wasn’t getting to answer a lot of [her] questions,” Agosta reflected. “I’ve heard sentiments from a lot of people in the meeting that said, ‘This sounds like a good idea, but the administration seems against it.’”
“A concern [was] brought up, questions were asked and answered and even more thought has been put into the topic.” McNay recalled, “[SAAC] continues to talk about this topic to decide if they want to take part in the introduction of a proposal to the Athletic Department; thoughtful discussion is always productive.”
President of SAAC, Nicole Krykanov ‘22, shared that both herself and Agosta agreed that Q&A sessions were not the ideal way to address the issues with the drug testing policy going forward.
SAAC is open to continuing discussions on the policy with Agosta and other members of Davidson Against Drug Policing. Krykanov explained that amending the reasonable suspicion portion of the policy is certainly on the table. According to Krykanov, SAAC wants any support for changing the policy to be unanimously supported by their body.
For athletes, a power discrepancy exists between the Athletic Department and themselves. Many athletes can only attend Davidson because of athletic or academic scholarships; these could be jeopardized if they violate athlete rules or harshly confront the Department.
“I think many athletes have been thinking about [this work] for a while but haven’t been able to [come forward] because they were afraid of backlash,” Krykanov highlighted. “I think for [many] people, they’re happy that Agosta came forward.”
The athletic department believes that the current drug policy protects the health and well-being of Davidson student-athletes.
“The Davidson Athletic Department drug testing protocol is one tool in assisting us to provide a quality healthcare program for our athletes,” McNay commented.“The Athletic Department offers several ways for scholar-athletes to bring up issues that they may be having or to express ideas that they may have.”
A few weeks ago, Davidson proceeded with randomized testing of student-athletes who are sitting on the sideline this fall. This action highlights the administration’s ability to wield the drug policy over athletes at any time, even in a cancelled season.
Raising awareness and refining the mission of the Davidson Against Drug Policing might go a long way to promoting and achieving their goals. Talks with the SGA and SAAC continue, but all parties involved can come to some agreement that language in the policy may be adjustable.
“I have a lot of respect for Nico, because this is a controversial issue,” Krykanov said. “The main thing that we want to focus on, in the policy, is the reasonable suspicion, and we [could] clean up that verbiage.”