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Sunday, May 31, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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More Lc Drug Tests Possible Scrutiny Could Be Expanded From Football To All Sports

Practice. Tryouts. Urinating in a cup.

It could become routine in the lives of athletes at Lewis and Clark High School.

Spokane School District 81 board members will consider today whether to expand a small, controversial drug-testing program from football to all the school’s sports teams.

Administrators say random testing would help keep sports clean at the downtown high school, which has had problems with drug use among athletes.

But some athletes predict plummeting team morale and fewer students trying out for sports.

“I’m going to feel like they’re suspicious, like they’re accusing me of using drugs,” said Carlin Oeljen, 17, captain of last year’s girls basketball team.

Proponents call the proposal voluntary, but students can opt out of testing only if a parent signs a waiver at the beginning of the season.

Otherwise, a computer randomly selects athletes for testing each week.

Last fall, Lewis and Clark’s football team became the first sports team in the area to try drug testing. This year, administrators want to include hundreds of kids on all teams, from track to volleyball.

“It just seemed to be a logical step,” said Lewis and Clark Principal Mike Howson.

It’s a debate schools across the region are facing, as hospitals and businesses offer to pay testing expenses.

Deaconess Medical Center spent about $2,500 testing Lewis and Clark players last fall, said Mike Forness, who manages the hospital’s chemical dependency center.

Three other area schools also have contacted Deaconess about testing their athletes. Forness wouldn’t name them.

Howson called last year’s pilot program a success, despite the week when three boys failed the drug tests.

“People took it a lot more seriously after someone got caught,” he said.

The boys were forced to sit out two games, apologize to their teammates and pass a drug test before returning to the field.

Varsity football player Martin Ross, 16, said the suspensions showed why drug testing is important.

“Some football players like to do it right before games because it gets them riled up,” Ross said. “They smoke a little (marijuana) and then go play.”

When three seniors failed the tests, teammates were shocked to lose some of their best players - and a couple of critical games, Ross said.

“They were supposed to be leaders,” he said. “The whole team was in shock. We lost two of our best guys.”

Buzzie Welch, who coaches the girls volleyball team at Lewis and Clark, said drug testing in schools is a sad sign of the times.

“I don’t think it speaks well of our society that we have to do something like this. I don’t think it’s a kid issue, I think it’s a society issue.”

Still, he said, drug testing might help some athletes. When friends try to give them drugs, they’ll have a convenient excuse to refuse.

Two top basketball players on the girls team said they don’t need that excuse.

Athletes sign contracts at the beginning of each season promising to stay away from drugs and alcohol, said Oeljen.

“Our coaches should be able to trust us enough to stick to that,” she said.

Teammate Mary Thompson, 16, said she doesn’t want to take drug tests. But she probably will, even though school administrators insist students don’t have to.

“That makes you look bad,” she said. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, you don’t want to do it. You’re probably on drugs.”’

Lewis and Clark athletes probably won’t be the only ones taking drug tests. University High School in the Spokane Valley tested its baseball players this spring, and administrators plan to discuss expansion to all sports in August.

This year, students would still be tested at Deaconess, but they’d be sponsored by a statewide group called Washington Drug Free Youth. All the city’s hospitals contribute to testing expenses.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEXT? The Spokane School District 81 School Board will discuss the proposed drug testing program at a noon meeting today in the first-floor board room, 200 N. Bernard.

This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEXT? The Spokane School District 81 School Board will discuss the proposed drug testing program at a noon meeting today in the first-floor board room, 200 N. Bernard.

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