NCAA Medical Chief Wants to Overhaul Drug Policy

By Paul Gaita 03/25/15

Brian Hainline thinks the NCAA's doping policy is inconsistent and out of date.

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Brian Hainline, who serves as chief medical officer for the National College Athletics Association (NCAA), has joined the growing chorus of criticism over its policy regarding performance-enhancing and recreational drugs.

“The NCAA’s doping policy is outdated, and there needs to be more consistency among schools,” Hainline stated in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Currently, the NCAA allows individual schools to not only set their own policy towards drug testing, but also determine the punishment for players who test positive. This approach has allowed an environment in which players at different schools can receive different penalties for the same infraction.

Hainline, a neurologist on faculty at New York University, believes that the solution is to turn over control to the NCAA conferences so that a unified policy would be in place. He also wants drug test results to be administered by a single, accredited laboratory like Drug Free Sport. The Kansas City, Mo., facility is the NCAA’s lab of choice, but many schools use smaller, unaccredited labs to process tests.

Hainline’s suggestion has attracted some interest, in particular from incoming Southeastern Conference (SEC) commissioner Greg Sankey, who believes that his conference could lead the way for unified national drug policies. “That is a tangible reason to re-engage,” he stated. The SEC briefly considered an overhaul of their testing program in 2013, but abandoned the idea.

Any changes to policy will require the approval of the schools that make up the NCAA, which will be an uphill battle. But Hainline is adamant about pursuing his idea, especially in regard to its impact on legions of younger sports fans.

“There should be one policy, and it should be transparent,” he said. “A clear statement that anyone who plays for the Big Five will not be allowed to take steroids, that sends a strong message to youth.”

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.