Auburn Football Fires Back at ESPN Story

The following statement was provided to ESPN TheMagazine
on March 29, 2013. Also included below is
an open letter to the Auburn Family from Athletics Director Jay Jacobs, which includes key supporting




a thorough internal review, the Auburn Athletics Department believes
many of the allegations made by the individuals interviewed for this
story are
baseless and inaccurate.


the District Attorney told a jury in open court a year ago, Auburn
football and Auburn's policies had nothing to do with what happened the
night that
four former football players were arrested for armed robbery.
Unfortunately, the defendants in this case are simply facing the consequences of their actions.


facts clearly demonstrate that the Auburn Athletics Department and the
Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics acted appropriately and
in response to the growing threat of synthetic marijuana during the
2010-2011 academic year.


Athletics began testing its student-athletes for synthetic marijuana
three days after a test became available.  Since our drug testing policy
amended to include synthetic marijuana as a banned substance, there
have been three positive tests for the drug out of more than 2,500 drug
tests administered.


of our student-athletes are regularly educated on the harms of all
types of substance use and abuse, including synthetic marijuana. In
addition to
education, any student-athletes who test positive for drugs are
required to seek professional counseling.


Auburn Athletics has always and will continue to put the well being of our student-athletes at the forefront of our mission.





Dear Auburn Family,


You may have seen a story on this evening about the
former Auburn football players who were dismissed two years ago for their involvement in an armed robbery.


The story chronicles the former players' use of synthetic marijuana, which the defendants in the robbery case have used as their primary defense
in court. We expect another, more in-depth story to appear in an upcoming print edition of ESPN The Magazine.


We cooperated with ESPN in the story because of how appropriately and aggressively the Auburn Athletics Department and the Committee
on Intercollegiate Athletics acted in response to the growing threat of synthetic marijuana during the 2010-2011 academic year.


a father of three, I sympathize with the parents of the young men who
face prison sentences for their alleged involvement in the armed
robbery. While they have a right
to speak out, I have an obligation to share the facts, which clearly show Auburn Athletics tried to help these former


Some of the statements made in the story are wrong and need to be corrected, while others need to be put into proper context.
One player interviewed by ESPN, for example, alleges that up to half of the 2010 football team was using synthetic marijuana. It's hard to be more wrong than that. The
facts and our drug testing results simply do not support such a claim.


A parent interviewed told ESPN they would have done more to help her son had we
done more to let her know he was in trouble. That is incorrect. The
facts demonstrate that our coaches and Sports Medicine professionals had regular communication with the parents and that every effort was made to warn our student-athletes about the dangers
of synthetic marijuana.


Allow me to share with you the facts that we provided to the reporter. Some of them were included in the initial story.
Some were not.


• Auburn Athletics began testing for synthetic marijuana three days after our testing company made a test available.
A test became available on Jan. 24, 2011, and Auburn added the test to its panel on Jan. 27, 2011.

• Since our drug testing policy was amended to include synthetic marijuana as a banned
substance, there have been three positive tests
for the drug out of more than 2,500 drug tests administered. Those
three individuals are no longer on Auburn Athletics rosters.

• As
soon as our Director of Sports Medicine was aware that synthetic
marijuana was a drug readily available in convenience stores in the fall
of 2010, Auburn
Athletics contacted our drug testing company to inquire about whether they had a test for synthetic marijuana and when one would be made available. They did not
have a test at the time.

At the same time, our Director of Sports Medicine began education efforts aimed at our coaches and student-athletes.

• Auburn Athletics provided urine samples to the drug testing company to assist them in their efforts to develop a test.

• The Director of Sports Medicine and former Coach Gene Chizik both addressed the football team about the dangers
of synthetic marijuana at multiple team meetings in the Fall of 2010, before a test was available. A story about the drug was placed on the locker of every football player on the team.

• Within the first few months of testing, 3 percent of our student-athletes tested positive for synthetic marijuana.

• Phone records show that more than 50 phone calls were made to the parents of two former student-athletes who
were interviewed by ESPN.

• The father of one of the student-athletes who was apparently interviewed
by ESPN was sent a letter informing him that his son had failed a drug test for regular marijuana two months before the robbery.

• The
Auburn Drug Testing/Drug Education Advisory Committee recommended to
the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics that synthetic marijuana be
added to the
Auburn Athletics drug testing policy on March 14, 2011. The policy change was adopted that day.

• Penalties for the use of synthetic marijuana were put into place for the next academic year beginning in August of 2011. Since
it became a banned substance under the drug testing policy, only three
student-athletes have tested positive for synthetic marijuana out of
more than 2,500 tests administered.


I hope the facts clear up any misconceptions about drug use among our student-athletes. It is important for you to know that Auburn Athletics conducts approximately
1,500 drug tests each academic year. Less than one percent of our student-athletes test positive for illegal substances.

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