UGA's Adams on drug testing: Take the 'high ground' even if it's costly

Columbus Ledger-EnquirerApril 26, 2012 

ATHENS – Georgia president Michael Adams has weighed in on why his school drug tests athletes, why that will not change, and whether he will push for a uniform policy in the SEC.

The issue has been in the forefront around the football program this spring, after several key players were reported to have failed drug tests after spring break. Nothing has been officially announced, but All-American safety Bacarri Rambo is known to be facing a four-game suspension for a second failed test.

Interestingly, Adams said that recent round of drug tests was initiated by the football program, rather than a routine round of tests.

During a press briefing on Thursday, Adams said he has spoken with athletics director Greg McGarity and head coach Mark Richt about it. Each has previously expressed support for the policy, and Adams echoed that, going a bit further.

“Frankly the question is do we want this to be a university that leads or follows, in that regard?” Adams said. “My belief – I believe both the A.D. and coach independently agree with me – is we want to set a climate where any illicit drug use is not only frowned on but is not tolerated. There are penalties.

“Now, the penalties need to be reasonable, they need to reflect what is going on in society today. I frankly, in the 60s and 70s I saw more illicit drug use than I see today. So in a lot of ways I think we are better off. But I don’t have the responsibility for any place other than the University of Georgia. I have a say at the SEC, and I have had a say at the NCAA level. You will notice that all of the professional sports are moving to more aggressive drug testing. And I frankly think that’s the right thing to do.”

It was pointed out to Adams that those pro leagues have uniform policies, unlike in college.

“Different people have different philosophies on this. I think it’s important for people to know where our moral compass is on this issue,” Adams said.

To that end, Adams said the issue will be discussed at the SEC meetings in Destin this summer.

“It will be talked about in Destin whether I bring it up or not,” he said. “But if it’s not talked about I’ll sort of be inclined to.”

Georgia fans have complained that the policy puts their team at a competitive disadvantage, since their players are suspended for games, while other schools may handle it less publicly, if at all.

Adams is unsympathetic.

“I really don’t stay up nights worrying about that,” he said. “I know we have some supporters who do. But I prefer to take a little higher approach to that sort of thing. I frankly think if we don’t do that, we are not being the kind of educators of young people that people pay me to be. And I don’t think the typical Georgian wants us closing our eyes to illicit drug use.

“I think we have to be reasonable about penalties. I think the coach has been so. I think we have to continue to improve the counseling and education. That’s what we’ve been about here. But I would rather take the high ground and lose a player or two all along, than to close my eyes to something that I know to be wrong.”

The one area of wiggle room, it appears, is possible tweaks to the timing of testing.

“Frankly that’s a question for the coaches,” Adams said. “Let me be clear: Other than them informing me about it, knowing what my position on it was, this latest round was initiated by them. It was not directed by me.”

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