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Slotback Marcus Curry remains at Navy after failing a drug test last month

Sophomore slotback Marcus Curry told administrators he did not know his cigar was laced with marijuana.
Sophomore slotback Marcus Curry told administrators he did not know his cigar was laced with marijuana. (Gail Burton/associated Press)
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By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 30, 2010

A standout Navy football player failed a drug test last month but has been allowed to remain at the service academy, which has one of the toughest anti-drug policies in higher education.

Marcus Curry, a sophomore slotback for the Midshipmen, tested positive in a random drug test after he had smoked a cigar filled with a blend of tobacco and marijuana, according to sources familiar with the case. A recommendation for expulsion reached academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler. But the academy leader allowed Curry to remain at the Annapolis school.

Academy administrators declined comment, citing privacy restrictions, as did Curry.

The story, first publicized Tuesday on a widely read naval blog, has roiled the military community. Some see it as evidence of a double standard toward athletes, minorities or both. The academy comes under perennial fire from some alumni and military observers for appearing to favor minorities in a quest for institutional diversity. The academy calls diversity "our highest personnel priority" on its Web site.

"It just brings down the morale of the brigade to have certain people getting special favors and other people not," said one Midshipman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Any Midshipman suspected of drug use is subject to "separation," or expulsion, under the academy's zero-tolerance policy toward drug use.

"This does not mean that there is a policy of mandatory separation," said Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, academy spokesman, in a statement. Expulsion hinges on several factors, including whether a student "knowingly consumed an illegal drug."

Curry told administrators he did not know the cigar was laced with marijuana and smoked it unwittingly, sources said.

Navy rules state that a failed urine test does not signal drug abuse in cases of "unknowing ingestion."

Fowler's decision was first disseminated on the naval blog CDR Salamander. It has been reported in the Navy Times and Annapolis Capital newspapers.

Many commentators -- although not all -- side with Capt. Matthew L. Klunder, the academy commandant, who ranks below Fowler. He recommended Curry be expelled. Hundreds of Facebook users have joined a page titled Zero Tolerance = Zero Exceptions, its content mostly critical of the decision to let Curry stay.

"I think Capt. Klunder made the right decision," said the parent of a Navy football player, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He thought he should have been separated. And there's a lot of other people who think that as well."

Fowler determined that Curry was not in violation of the academy's anti-drug policy, sources said.

Curry, from Carrollton, Tex., averaged 7.3 yards per carry this past season. He ran 80 times for 585 yards with five touchdowns and also caught 10 passes for 287 yards with three touchdowns.

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