The questions started coming not long after the news began to circulate that Justin Houston allegedly flunked a drug test at an NFL combine, according to a story first reported by FoxSports.com that also is being reported in numerous media outlets. People wanted to know if anything like this happened with Houston while he was at UGA?
The answer is, we don’t know.
Houston was suspended for the first two games of the 2009 season at Georgia for an undetermined “violation of team rules.” That may or may not have been because he tested positive for drugs. But UGA didn’t say then and it isn’t going to say now. Test results are protected by “HIPAA,” the federal law that ensures that medical information remains private.
What we do know is Georgia tests its student-athletes regularly for alcohol and drugs, including marijuana and performance-enhancing drugs. According to Athletic Director Greg McGarity, student-athletes are exposed to testing in four different ways: preseason physicals, random, reasonable suspicion and periodic visits from the NCAA.
The punishment for failing such tests are spelled out in UGA’s student-athlete handbook. McGarity, reading from the 2010-11 edition of that handbook, said that a first offense at UGA calls for a suspension of “no less than 10 percent of the total season of competition,” drug counseling and evaluation, 20 hours of community service and the notification of the head coach, director of sports medicine, team physician and parents or guardians. They are also placed on athletic department probation and subjected to more testing.
A second offense is a suspension from 50 percent of the total season and a third is revocation of scholarship.
“That’s our policy,” McGarity said. “We adhere to it and follow it to the letter.”
Drug-testing is common in college athletics and UGA was considered in pioneer in the practice of it. It installed one of the first comprehensive testing programs in the country under AD Vince Dooley in the 1980s. However, testing policies among individual schools vary widely, according to a recent report by The Associated Press.
Houston (6-3, 270), a defensive end, left Georgia after his junior season this past fall to enter the draft. He was one of two players to test positive for marijuana, according to the FoxSports report. Iowa defensive tackle Christian Ballard was the other, it said.
D. Orlando Ledbetter, the AJC’s Falcons reporter and NFL expert, said teams would have already had knowledge of the alleged failed tests. Houston projected as a late first-round or early second-round draft pick.
Houston was an All-SEC first-team selection after recording 67 tackles, 18½ tackles for loss and 10 sacks this past season, en route to an All-SEC first-team selection. He played defensive end and outside linebacker during his three-year tenure with the Bulldogs and has been evaluated at both positions by NFL scouts.
– Chip Towers, The UGA Blog