University of Maryland officials concerned with the cocaine-induced death of Len Bias and a published report that several athletes failed random drug tests during the 1985-86 school year are considering measures to tighten testing, sources said.
The Baltimore Evening Sun reported in its Thursday editions that unnamed officials had said that several players tested positive during the 1985-86 school year.
Football coach Bobby Ross said last night he was not surprised by the report. "I'm familiar with what took place in our program," he said. "I know we had a small percentage that tested positive. We had several who went for counseling."
The university's drug-testing policy stipulates that if an athlete tests positive, the athlete is retested immediately. If the athlete again tests positive, he or she must seek counseling.
If the athlete in mandatory counseling misses a counseling session or tests positive again (with another confirmation test), he or she is subject to a two-week suspension from the team.
A third offense would result in an indefinite suspension from the team, loss of athletic housing, use of athletic facilities, and/or termination of financial assistance at the end of the academic year.
"I'm satisfied with the testing and the way it is done," Ross said Wednesday, adding that random tests were done four or five times during the school year. "There are flaws and there are things you learn in testing in a year." Asked what he learned, Ross said, "I want to be aware of when they're doing it and how they're doing it and to not assume anything."
"The first offense remains totally with the health center," Athletic Director Dick Dull said yesterday. "If the athlete has a second offense, we the athletic department would then become involved. To date, we have not become involved in any second offenses."
The director of the student health center, Dr. Margaret Bridwell, would not comment on whether any athletes failed any of their drug tests.
All Maryland athletes and cheerleaders are tested for drugs during preseason physicals and in random tests during the year. In an interview earlier this week with the New York Times, Chancellor John B. Slaughter said athletes were not tested when their team was not in season.
However, that policy may be changed and athletes could be tested when their sports are not in season, it was learned.
Tests are conducted in the locker room, the training room or in the student health center, according to associate athletic director Randy Hoffman. "There is one person or two people who actually monitor the test itself," Hoffman said. According to other sources, the tests for the football and basketball teams are often monitored by Jim Dietsch, the athletic department academic coordinator.
Freshman basketball player Dave Dickerson said of the random testing: "I've been tested probably twice. Sometime when we came in from practice they would say, 'We're drug testing today.' As far as I know, nobody on the team tested positive. But everything was very private."
Hoffman said there is always a chance someone could get around a test. "Athletes are becoming more sophisticated," Hoffman said. "Every time the Olympic committee comes up with a test, someone tries to figure out a way to circumvent it.
"We monitor ours pretty close. I know that at some schools there's been some substitution of urine. They tape samples to their ankles or something. I don't think that happens here."
Slaughter told The Washington Post yesterday that drugs are as prevalent on college campuses as in the rest of society.
"It would be foolish to asume the University of Maryland would have no presence of drugs, simply because there is not a single element of our society not affected by it," Slaughter said. "We are determined to do everything within our power to remove drugs and people who abuse themselves with drugs and have a history of being involved with drugs from the campus."
Staff writer Sally Jenkins contributed to this report.