Athletes tested positive for drug use

Joe Fleming

Several players on the Sacramento State baseball team tested positive for drugs during regular testing.

The season for Sac State has gotten off to a rough start, going 6-19. Players, such as junior catcher Derrick Chung, were surprised when they realized some teammates decided to use drugs.

“I was pretty shocked to be honest. I’ve played with those guys for three to four years now,” Chung said. “It was kind of tough for me to (believe) in them.”

Chung said there are players who failed the test twice, players he knew very well and has been playing with for several years. He said it is because of peer pressure that players experiment with drugs such as marijuana. But just like a family, he wants them back on the team clean and committed to the guys. He said head coach Reggie Christiansen called for the veterans on the team to take control.

“He told the (veterans), we need stronger leadership out of the older guys,” Chung said. “Because this kind of thing happens when you don’t have great leadership.”

During his freshman season in 2008, Chung said there were 13 seniors on the team and they did not let him get away with anything. He wants to deliver the same message to the young players now.

“We don’t mess around. If you make a mistake and you understand it, then you’re going to get punished,” Chung said.

There are two players on the team who tested positive once before this season, but they decided to make the change and re-commit to being a Hornet. Although the two players, who remain anonymous, are back on the team, they had to work hard in order to gain their position back and earn trust with the teammates and coaches again.

“We’ve had them do community service. We’ve talked about it, and I think we’ve done everything possible, and at the end of the day, we’ve dismissed players,” Christiansen said. “They understand the rules.”

Christiansen also said he is unhappy with the effort his team is putting forth in the classroom. The team ranks low in academics and he said fixing some of these off-the-field problems will improve play on the diamond.

“We certainly have something going on and we’re trying to change the culture. You’re here to go to class and be a baseball player and do the right things on and off the field,” Christiansen said. “We’re not going to be a program that’s a renegade. We need to do a better job representing this university.”

The NCAA is not vague when it describes the drug policy. It i s very straightforward and to the point. There is a list of drugs that are prohibited and, according to the NCAA Drug-Testing Program pamphlet, “institutions and the student-athlete shall be held accountable for all drugs within the banned drug class.”

The athlete must sign a form annually provided by the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports agreeing not to use any of the banned drugs. The coaching staff at the college and the NCAA make it clear to the

individual what is prohibited.

The players who tested positive were unable to comment, and the Athletic Director could not be reached at the time of press.

Senior infielder Kirby Young understands the rules and said he will back the coaching staff because teammates should know this is no place for drug use.

“From day one we had our team rules and if you do (drugs) you won’t be around any longer. And I’m going to have my coaches back on that 100 percent,” Young said.

“Some of them earned their way back on (the team) through two months of hell.”

The “hell” Young describes was hours of working hard on preparing the baseball field, a wide variety community services such as helping at local Little Leagues, and many discussions between coach and player.

For Chung, baseball is not just a fun sport to play or a way to impress the girls. It is a lifestyle, and drugs would only jeopardize the thing he loves most.

“I’ve been here for four years. Baseball has been my life. I’ve given 100 percent and hopefully everybody is giving everything they’ve got,” Chung said. “I literally spend more time bonding with these guys than with my family. This is my family and I love everybody. Hopefully we can step-up and start playing better.”

Christiansen said there is a connection between the struggles of life and the failures of baseball.

“We’re really trying to find out how important baseball is to some of these guys and I don’t think we’re asking too much,” Christiansen said. “The bottom line is there are rules in life and consequences for the mistakes we make, and baseball’s really no different than life.”

You can reach Joe Fleming at jfleming@statehornet.com