NBA Drops the Ball on Drug Testing
Lamar Odom’s career as an admired professional athlete is now being challenged by off-court drug use. On August 30, Lamar was arrested on DUI charges and disappeared from the public eye. There have been many reports that he checked himself into a drug rehabilitation facility, but some competing reports cite unidentified sources who say that is not true. Others say he was in and out in just one day.
While this recent drug-related charge and dramatic disappearance has attracted attention from fans who don’t want to believe their favorite athletes do drugs, athletes are no strangers to drugs. In fact, Lamar was reportedly suspended from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011 for drug-related violations. Since professional athletes must take four random drug tests per season, it is possible that those violations stemmed from failed tests.
In light of the recent upheaval with Lamar, sources inside the professional basketball industry are confirming to many media sources that marijuana use is common amongst players who are overstimulated and overstressed during busy game seasons. While many Americans now favor legalization of marijuana, Lamar is accused of graduating to harder drugs, including cocaine. Marijuana is considered a gateway drug by opponents of further legalization, and Lamar’s situation would seem to back up their case.
in 2012, the Director of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) criticized the NBA for not implementing adequate testing procedures for athletes. The concern for WADA is that the NBA does not currently issue a drug test for Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and does not adequately test for performance-enhancing drugs in general. While that may be why some players remain stars on the court well past the age of 30, there are also some serious gaps in testing for drug use in general.
Standard policy for the NBA limits each athlete to four random drug tests per game season. Sources inside the basketball community have told many media outlets that players feel free to do as they please once they have used up that final drug test.
There is a difference between performance-enhancing drugs like HGH and illegal street drugs like cocaine and marijuana. HGH is taken by many bodybuilders to increase muscle gains and is used illegally by some athletes to improve overall athletic performance. The main complaint against the use of HGH is that it gives some athletes an unfair advantage over others, but it can also lead to pain, swelling and numbness in the skin and nerves. It can be dangerous when used in high dosages.
Cocaine use may actually sabotage performance on the court rather than giving a boost. It stimulates the central nervous system and messes with dopamine levels in the brain to create a pleasurable state of euphoria. It is highly addictive and extremely expensive, but money is certainly no obstacle for NBA stars like Lamar.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the rates of drug overdose have risen dramatically in the last 20 years. There are more than 20,000 overdoses each year, and many of those cases involve the combination of prescription medications and drugs like cocaine.
Depending on the type of drug tests issued by the NBA and the timing of those tests, it is possible for athletes to take cocaine, marijuana and/or other drugs without failing a test. Since the NBA does not currently test for performance-enhancing drugs like HGH and has only a limited number of drug tests per year, it is likely that many of the athletes do boost performance on the court – or get high off the court – through the use of such drugs. Lamar is in the hot seat now, but his situation may be a lot more common in the NBA than meets the eye.