Back at the start of the football season, another blogger received an anonymous email from someone who claimed to be inside Purdue University who wanted to out members of the football team for failed drug tests. The source named several players including one high profile one and said they had failed multiple drug tests and yet had no been punished, nor had the failed tests been made public.
The writer did what a lot of bloggers would do and he posted the rumor but with the caveat that it was just that — a rumor, and one that was probably not able to be confirmed. He did not report it as fact — only that someone claimed it was true. This is, of course, the sticking point between bloggers and “reporters” and it’s one that many cannot get past. There is this assumption out there that anyone who runs a blog actually wants to be a reporter and thus should be held to the same requirements, while in fact few of us want to be reporters and are, in essence, running opinion columns all the time (when you think about it, that’s what most blog posts are). Opinion columns are just that — opinions. And whether my opinion is that LeBron is a douche or drugs are running rampant somewhere, it’s something I’m entitled to say. Especially if I say something like, “This is not a confirmed fact, it’s just something we believe is going on.” Like, you know, players getting paid in the SEC to come play football there or shady things happening at Ohio State. (Oh, wait, those are now coming to light as facts. Whatever.)
Getting back to the Purdue football drug rumor, the posting of the rumor was met with anger and threats from Purdue University. The blogger was essentially told he would never have access again to cover games if he didn’t retract it immediately. So he did, which was probably in his best interest given that he wants to be able to cover his alma mater. But this kind of gestapo tactic by our favorite school is kind of disgusting. It makes you wonder how many of the traditional media guys covering Purdue understand the same kind of blackballing would befall them if they dared to question the University’s practices. That is to say, I wonder if the local media who does cover Purdue is in the university’s pocket.
Fast forward to now, and this article by AOL Fanhouse came to light this week, which details how Purdue is among only four universities from the automatic-qualifying BCS conferences that do not suspend a football player after two positive drug tests. In fact, at Purdue, you only get suspended one game after your third positive drug test (at more than half the other schools, you get dismissed from the team at this point). And that’s only if you fail three drug tests in 18 months; if you go 18 months without a positive test, your slate goes back to zero. Yes, that’s right… you can fail a couple of drug tests every year and a half and never serve time for it. It makes you begin to wonder how bad a drug user you’d have to be to be suspended even a game at Purdue. Are these guys tested all the time? Once a year? Randomly? If it’s the last one, then there’s almost no way a guy would ever get in real trouble for regularly using drugs, recreational or otherwise. This is disappointing.
What further disappoints me is that this lax policy probably played into the way that the aforementioned blogger was treated by Purdue when he posted the rumor. The rumor probably had some — or a lot — of truth to it and the PR folks in West Lafayette knew it and reacted poorly. If that’s the case and Purdue is strongarming bloggers, well, that just sucks. They should be handling drug abuse issues with as much fervor.
From the Fanhouse article and other rumblings we’ve heard, it appears that truly nothing happens to players, even with repeated failed tests. How seriously can we expect players to take rules and discipline when repeated illegal activities aren’t even punished?
And on the separate issue of the actions of the athletic department, well, that’s totally out of line and disappointing as well. We want nothing more than for our school and its athletic programs to succeed, but we also want it to be done “the right way.” We’re often quick to rip on other programs, athletes and situations that we think deserve to be ripped. It’s only fair that we publicly announce it when our university disappoints us, too.
On this subject, they’ve done so in multiple ways and we fear there is more to come.