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September 12, 2013

Up in smoke?



Sports Illustrated continued their five-part series on Oklahoma State football on Thursday morning with "The Drugs," the series' third installment. Predictably, the piece highlighted drug use by players in the program. It also raised questions about the school's drug testing and counseling policies. The drug usage mentioned was overwhelmingly marijuana, though methamphetamines, prescription pain-killers and cocaine each had mentions in the storyline.

Marijuana is typically not a program-killer, as it occurs at every school in the country. Performance-enhancing drugs certainly can be. However, the only mention of steroids or other PED's is in the lead, where Bo Bowling's well-documented 2009 arrest for with felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute as well as misdemeanor charges of possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. The anabolic steroid stanozolol was among the substances Bowling was charged with possessing. After the second paragraph of Thursday's story, no mention is made of steroids.

In an interview with Sam Mayes on Mayes' show on 107.7 The Franchise, Bowling said he was not contacted by SI. Further he told Mayes that had they made a call, he would have told them that the arrest and his eventual return to the field impacted his life in a very positive way

Ex-players who have been quoted in the series coming forward to dispute or recant their words has been a regular theme since the release of the first part - The Money - on Tuesday morning. For The Drugs, an important section was disputed before it was even released. On Wednesday night, Donnell Williams posted a status on his Facebook page that clarified a statement attributed to him that had been in the teaser section for The Drugs since Tuesday.

The other major piece to Thursday's story was what lead writer George Dohrmann tabbed as his personal "smoking gun." For a detailed look at why he felt that, and to see that OSI broke the story a full seven hours ahead of the release of The Drugs, check out The Smoking Gun" on the Corral message board.

In a nutshell, Dohrmann felt OSU's counseling system for players who failed drug tests is sorely lacking. Assistant strength and conditioning coach Joel Tudman. In addition to his team duties, Tudman is a pastor. What he is not is a certified substance abuse counselor, and that is where Dohrmann and co-writer Thayer Evans attacked the counseling program.

Despite the questioning of Tudman's credentials, there is likely zero chance of an NCAA problem for the school. The NCAA does not set or control its members drug testing policies, nor does it have particular requirements for any type of counseling or counselors. What it does require is for member institutions to set their own testing program guidelines for its sports programs and then adhere to them. OSU and Tudman do get a bit of a black eye from the story, but it's due to errors or misrepresentations on his resume. Those things do not, however, affect his qualifications to be a counselor in OSU football's drug testing and counseling programs.

Given the allegations, it's very possible the NCAA will request evidence from OSU that their drug policy is currently being enforced. They could even go back a few years. Assuming everything is on the up-and-up, the allegations won't do any damage to the program.

Former Cowboy defensive end Ugo Chinasa told OSI in a phone interview that his view was that Mike Gundy and his staff were anything but lax in their enforcement of the drug policy. Chinasa recalled being tested seven times over the course of one academic year in his career.

"No, they cared. If you failed a drug test, they give you a warning and then they put you in a program with one of our strength coaches, Joel Tudman," Chinasa said. "He'll talk to you and then they will keep testing you to see if you pass or fail it (drug test). If you fail it, basically, they'll kick you off the team.

"I know one guy, he kept failing drug tests. The last drug test he had, he tried to use someone else's pee. I don't know whose pee it was, but basically he got caught doing that and he got kicked off the team. That same day."

Former OSU linebacker James Thomas echoed Chinasa's sentiments.

"I never had a problem with drugs, so I couldn't understand why they would test me so much but it was what it was, you know?" Thomas said. "But from what I know we had a very strict and strong drug policy."

Overall, the damage assessment from day three of the series is much like the first two - a few black eyes and bad publicity, but no likely major NCAA concerns for Oklahoma State

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