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Auburn official outlines discipline process for football players facing drug charges

Auburn defensive lineman Byron Cowart was one of four Tigers arrested last weekend on drug charges.
Auburn defensive lineman Byron Cowart was one of four Tigers arrested last weekend on drug charges. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

The faculty chair of Auburn’s Drug and Alcohol Education and Testing Program Randall Clark provided some clarity on the university’s discipline process Friday.

Clark, who has been involved in the oversight of the committee for a number of years, is also part of the investigating committee that will determine the punishment for the four football players arrested last week.

Auburn coach Malzahn pledged to “take care of the situation,” but he isn’t solely responsible for determining punishment for football players charged with criminal offenses.

“The coach has input in the process if they wish to have it, but it’s a collective opinion,” Clark said.

According to Auburn’s drug policy, the committee includes the director of athletics (or designee), student-athlete’s coach (in this case Malzahn), chair of the drug testing committee (Clark), the Chair of the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics and the Faculty Athletics Representative.

“In my experience there usually is an obvious consensus about the punishment,” Clark said. “I’ve seen cases where a vote is taken, but usually the course of action becomes obvious in the course of the discussion.”

A coach can add to the punishment handed down by the committee, but can’t subject the student-athlete to a lesser penalty.

Byron Cowart, Carlton Davis, Ryan Davis and Jeremiah Dinson were arrested last week for possession of marijuana. Malzahn declined to answer specific questions about the universiy’s drug policy during multiple alumni club appearances this week. The policy goes back two decades, but was modified in 2014.

“There were some clarifications made to the categories of drugs and a slight modification to the penalty structure,” Clark said.

The penalty system expanded from three to five tiers with points being assigned for a each failed test (one point for marijuana and synthetic Cannabioids; three points for other banned substances).

If a student-athlete tests positive for marijuana they are subject to a one-year probationary period. Any further positive tests result in loss of playing time starting with 25 percent of the competitive season. A player receives a permanent loss of his or her playing status at five points.

According to Clark, criminal offenses do not automatically count as positive tests.

“The investigative committee makes the judgment on an individual case by case basis,” Clark said. “If the police are involved that’s usually a strong indication there’s something we need to be concerned about.”

The distinction is an important one for student-athletes that have previously tested positive for a banned substance.

The student-athlete wouldn’t add any points to their name under the tiered penalty structure if the criminal offense isn’t counted as a positive test, but all student-athletes arrested on criminal charges are required to submit to a drug screening administered by the university.

“As soon as we have access to them they go through a screening,” Clark said. “Sometimes there’s variables out of our control where they won’t be on campus right away, but as soon as the faculty has the opportunity they must submit a sample.”

The results of the test are considered during the committee’s review of the case. The testing process can take a week to 10 days with the sample going through an independently accredited testing facility.

Malzahn declined to say if the four players arrested last week had faced previous discipline under the program’s drug and alcohol policy.

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