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Publish date: Oct 20, 2010

DI Board to consider adding legislation to eliminate sickle cell opt-out

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

The Division I Legislative Council will ask the Division I Board of Directors to enter into the 2010-11 legislative cycle a proposal eliminating the ability of incoming student-athletes to decline a test for the sickle cell trait.

The proposal requiring the test be offered to incoming student-athletes unless they sign a waiver declining the test was passed earlier this year and went into effect on Aug. 1.

The Board meets Oct. 28. The group is the only remaining body with the ability to enter legislation into the current cycle.

The measure removing the ability to decline the sickle cell test was originally presented to the Legislative Council as noncontroversial legislation from the Division I Championships/Sport Management Cabinet at the request of the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports. The legislation was not moved as noncontroversial and was thus slated to be entered into the 2011-12 legislative cycle.

The proposal was not considered noncontroversial because of the significant debate on the issue less than a year ago, in which numerous issues – including declined consent – were vetted. The Council noted the importance of the test and that the adoption of the waiver was not designed to discourage student-athletes from submitting to the test but provided an opportunity to address situations in which student-athletes did not want to be tested for personal reasons.

However, the Council agreed to ask the Board to move the proposal from the 2011-12 cycle to the current one in order to permit the Division I membership to decide if the waiver provision should be eliminated.

When the original legislation was adopted, the clause allowing incoming student-athletes to decline the test was added, in part to address concerns that those who test positive might be denied opportunities. The proposal was sponsored by Conference USA and Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Sickle cell trait can change the shape of red blood cells during intense or extensive exertion, causing a blockage in blood vessels and rapid breakdown of muscles, including the heart. Initial tests for the trait are inexpensive (about $5 a test), though follow-up testing can be more expensive.

If the Board agrees to sponsor legislation in 2010-11, the first votes will be cast on the measure by the Legislative Council in January.

In other business, the Council will also recommend that the Board modify a proposal the presidents submitted in 2009 that would have eliminated the ability for institutions to host nonscholastic men’s basketball practices, competitions and other events. The proposal was part of a group of measures created by the Basketball Focus Group with the aim of cleaning up the recruiting environment in the sport.

The issue was studied by the Men’s Basketball Issues Committee, and that group recommended modifications that the Council supported:

  • Limiting the ban to nonscholastic practices and competitions, allowing institutions to continue to host instructional camps and clinics
  • Limiting nonscholastic events on institutional campus to the summer months (June through August)
  • State-sponsored multisport events would not be precluded from using institutional facilities for basketball-related events

The proposal will be considered for the first time in January.