The University of New Mexico’s interim president, after consulting with newly hired athletic director, met with the coaches of the school’s 22 varsity sports on Tuesday afternoon and announced an expanded student-athlete drug- and alcohol-testing program will be introduced for Lobo athletics.
Officials at UNM said Tuesday’s meeting was planned for weeks and is in no way related to a report on NMFishbowl.com. That report, citing unnamed sources, indicated UNM football coach Bob Davie is being investigated for claims of player mistreatment and “allegations about the athlete drug-testing process being compromised.”
Per UNM Interim President Chaouki Abdallah, in an email to the Journal, “This initiative is independent of any other matters. We are doing it because it is the right thing to do and it is a direction that members of the Athletics Department have advocated for.”
A change in drug testing was discussed during new athletic director Eddie Nuñez’s job interview in late August. He and Abdallah agreed that expanding UNM’s current policy should not only be explored, but should be one of the first initiatives once Nuñez came on board.
The new initiative is independent from NCAA-mandated random drug testing, which will continue to happen. This will be an additional layer of testing that UNM coaches already had the option of doing with their athletes, though each sport had to fund it out of its own budgets, most of which at UNM have been frozen for several years.
Football and swimming were the only two sports doing such additional testing on a regular basis. Men’s basketball had started to do so since the April hire of new coach Paul Weir.
Abdallah said the funding of the new program, however, will not be the burden of any sport or athletics at all, but the estimated $20,000 annual tab will be picked up by main campus. The testing will be handled by an outside company, Aegis Sciences, though it is unclear for what drugs there will be testing.
Athletes, who have to sign waivers saying they will submit to random testing or could have their scholarships revoked as part of UNM’s current policy, have not been included in discussions of the new policy, Abdallah confirmed.
Nuñez said there will be a review process of the current policies that begins immediately and also of the best practices across the nation before a final updated UNM policy is drafted, including such details on what to test for, repercussions for failed tests and other details.
“My hope is that we would be able to implement (the program) over the next year but we are not going to rush the implementation of a department-wide policy without due diligence and a solid plan,” Nuñez said.
Nuñez and Abdallah each made clear Tuesday’s talk was not to imply a problem with any sport at UNM exists. But, because it is something both believe has an immediate and direct impact on the athletes, it took priority.
“Policies are ultimately about people,” Nuñez sad. “I am committed to improving our processes on all levels, but those that are most important are the ones that directly impact the well-being and success of our students.”