UFC star Jon Jones was recently pulled from a championship mega-fight at UFC 200 when he failed a random pre-match drug screening. He now faces a crippling two-year suspension from the sport over the failed tests.
WWE star Brock Lesnar just failed multiple drug tests before and after his fight at the same UFC event. He stands to lose millions of dollars as a result.
At least 105 Russian athletes have been completely banned from the upcoming Olympics over their own doping scandal.
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NFL player Josh Gordon, a star wide receiver, was suspended for the entire 2015 season without pay after failing drug tests.
Famed cyclist Lance Armstrong was forced to relinquish title after title once it finally was discovered that he had used drugs throughout his career.
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Track star Marion Jones served six months in prison for lying to federal investigators about using drugs.
More than ever, athletes are tested for drugs — performance enhancing and otherwise. The screenings are scientific, accurate, random and constant. When busted, the consequences are swift and costly. This is the new reality for modern day athletics. The idea that drugs impact not only the performance of athletes, but are detrimental to their long term health and well-being, is widely accepted.
More than almost any non-athletic profession in America, policing, particularly in the field, requires a serious level of focus, acuity, agility, coordination and fitness. Unlike athletes, police officers are armed and deputized to use lethal force whenever they feel it is required to do their job safely. Unlike athletes, police also face a heavily armed society. Drug use — be it cocaine, marijuana, steroids, HGH or even alcohol — could seriously impact an officer’s performance.
This should not be debatable.
Before and after a UFC fight, athletes are tested for both illegal and performance enhancing drugs. The overwhelming majority of fighters pass their tests with flying colors. Taking the test is not offensive, but the UFC knows that drugs impact performance and they want to monitor and eliminate that possibility.
The same should be true with American police — doubly so. Good policing requires peak performance and snap judgments. Drugs of any kind could impair that judgment. Some drugs, like steroids, could cause police officers to be quick to anger.
Unfortunately, most police officers are only tested for drugs when they enter the police force. This should change immediately.
Police officers should be regularly and randomly screened for all drugs. They should be immediately screened after each and every use of force incident on the day of the incident and for a period of 60-90 days after the incident. Any use of physical force should immediately trigger a mandatory screening. It should just be a routine of policing like it is for athletes.
This suggestion is not random.
Steroid use among police officers is a widely known problem. Nearly 30 NYPD cops once came up on a list of names of people who purchased steroids locally. Officers have openly admitted they take steroids to “get an edge” on criminals. Commander Kim Humphrey of the Phoenix Police Department and a team of doctors published an important position piece on the problems of steroids in law enforcement. One New Jersey doctor supplied steroids to hundreds of law enforcement officials.
This could help explain, in part, why police officers have the highest domestic violence rate of any profession in the country — significantly higher than the NFL. The National Center for Women and Policing found that an astounding 40% of homes with police in them have experienced domestic violence.
Another study determined that as many as 25% of police are struggling with alcoholism. We’re not talking about hundreds of officers, or even thousands, but hundreds of thousands of officers.
Just imagine how an officer who is struggling with alcoholism, drug abuse or steroids may be impacted by these things in a high stress moment. It’s not a leap, with so much abuse prevalent, for us to assume that steroids and drug abuse have been present in some of the cases where lethal force was used, but we’ll never know without new, robust standards for drug and alcohol testing for American police officers.
If we can test track stars and UFC fighters like their lives depend on it, we can damn sure match those standards with law enforcement — where all of our lives depend on it.