Revised UGAA drug-testing policies change little, but put heat on those who leak information

Georgia’s athletic association has revised its drug testing policy for the first time in more than three and a half years, but the changes are relatively minor and do not alter the stringent penalty structure already in place for violations.

“We cleaned up some language, but philosophically, nothing changed,” athletic director Greg Mcgarity said.

The revised policy, finalized on June 1 and in effect for the coming school year, puts an emphasis on confidentiality on failed tests.

“Employees who improperly release such information are subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment,” it states.

Anyone from the school notified of a substance abuse issue for an athlete “will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement.”

The new language comes after reports last season that three running backs had failed a drug test and this spring that safety Bacarri Rambo was suspended four games for his second violation of Georgia’s drug policy, something his high school coach confirmed. Linebacker Alec Ogletree also is reportedly facing an early-season suspension. Georgia has not confirmed suspensions for Rambo or Ogletree.

McGarity said he’s communicated the need for confidentiality already to his staff, including in memos, but it’s being emphasized more.

“That’s basically what’s confidential is confidential,” McGarity said. “Don’t talk about it. It’s just stressing that. …If anybody wants to leak information, they just need to be careful. If it’s tracked back to them then they’ll probably lose their job.”

For athletes who test positive for banned substances, the policies remain the same.

A first offense still brings a suspension for at least 10 percent of the season (one football game). A second offense still triggers a suspension for at least 30 percent of the season (four games). A third offense still will bring dismissal and termination of scholarship. A DUI brings a suspension of at least 20 percent of the season, and for a second offense, if one of the two violations is a DUI, it’s a suspension of at least 50 percent of a season.

McGarity said there was no consideration given to changing the penalty structure.

“It’s just what we feel is right for our program,” he said. “It’s been in place for 18 years. I’m not going to sit here and change something that’s been pretty successful for a number of years in education and things like that.”

One change is that the athletic director and head coach will determine if a first time offender should practice while suspended from games.

The name of the policy itself has actually undergone a makeover from the “drug testing, education and counseling policy” to a “substance abuse policy.”

“Because it covers so many things,” McGarity said.

The new guidelines also offer more detailed descriptions of banned substances — such as synthetic marijuana — as well as those the athletic association discourages its athletes from using, such as smokeless tobacco.

The penalty structure is now the “substance abuse policy offense guidelines” instead of “remedial guidelines for drug offenses.”

The last time the policy was changed was Nov. 5, 2008. It may be amended at any time, according to the latest policy.

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