EUGENE, Ore. - An ESPN article about marijuana use by college athletes has singled out the University of Oregon, saying pot use among some players is common.
The ESPN article, with an online dateline of Wednesday, is due to be published in the ESPN magazine at the end of the month. The article includes a link to another story about pot use at other top-tier programs.
The article also details the numerous run-ins some Oregon players have had over pot use both with the school and law enforcement.
The University was quick to respond on Wednesday, saying they have little tolerance for athletes using the illegal weed.
In a widely distributed email, Assistant Athletic Director Dave Williford said "similar to many college campuses wrestling with the same issue, the University of Oregon actively works to address potential use of any illegal substance through a combination of education, prevention and enforcement activities." He included fact sheets regarding their sanctions guide and drug testing policy.
In the article, ESPN said a study by the NCAA showed about 23 percent of all college athletes - and nearly 27 percent of football players - use marijuana. The author said some players regard pot like alcohol - or even prefer it to drinking. The article also touches on shifting attitudes towards pot.
But ESPN singled out Oregon and especially Eugene due to its location and political climate, including the popular medical pot program and decriminalization efforts. "Nowhere is Oregon's laissez-faire approach to marijuana more apparent than Eugene, the state's counterculture and cannabis capital," the article reads.
Interviews with past and current Oregon players indicate smoking out was sometimes an unofficial team-building ritual and some players even used before games, saying it gave them focus.
But one unnamed player said coach Chip Kelly had no tolerance for pot use, including drug testing players who missed study hall.
The article also notes the paucity of testing athletes for pot, a sentiment echoed by former Oregon head coach Mike Belotti, who is now an ESPN college football analyst.
Full statement from Dave Williford:
“Student-athlete welfare is of the utmost importance to the University of Oregon. Similar to many college campuses wrestling with the same issue, the University of Oregon actively works to address potential use of any illegal substance through a combination of education, prevention and enforcement activities.
Student-athletes at the University of Oregon are tested for illegal substances to the full extent possible under existing Oregon state law, which prohibits random testing. We continue to work diligently to educate our student-athletes on the harmful impact of illegal substances.
In addition, we have articulated our illegal substances policy to our student-athletes and have clearly defined sanctions for a positive test.”