A new women’s track and field season underway: check. Head coach Shelia Burrell coming back for a second season: check. New assistant coach’s past drug test: check, well, positive.
Dorian Scott, an Olympic Jamaican shot putter, has been named the new women’s track and field assistant coach at San Diego State. Scott was a member of the Jamaican team for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, placing 15th in the shot put event. He previously coached at his alma mater, Florida State, before coming to San Diego.
In 2006, however, Scott tested positive for marijuana in a competition at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Cartagena, Colombia. Scott was given a “public warning” for his offense by the track and field governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federation, and as a result, had his gold medal taken away and national record erased.
Now, I am not here to judge Scott’s coaching abilities; on the contrary, his past athletic history suggests he may be the most qualified candidate for the position. Obviously, having a coach who has participated in the Olympic Games could serve as an advantage to the track and field team. Nonetheless, I must question the kind of ethical and moral example a coach can serve to student athletes, if he himself violated drug policies at a competition.
SDSU has a strict alcohol and substance abuse policy for both students and student athletes. According to SDSU’s university policies, a student may be suspended or expelled from the university by violating university drug policies. SDSU athletes are subject to drug testing and must adhere to the university’s three-strike positive drug policy if they wish to continue competing.
Upon Scott’s new position, SDSU could unintentionally be lessening the importance of being drug-free, especially for student athletes. Though his actions would be frowned upon by the university if he were a student, it doesn’t appear to be a problem as an SDSU employee.
Obviously, a positive test for marijuana is not as serious as using other drugs, such as steroids. But Scott is now in a position of higher authority in an environment where athletes who are guilty of using marijuana can be suspended from athletic competitions and from the university.
Scott may, however, be able to use his past personal behavior as an example of how not to act for student athletes. His poor choices may warn students about the negative consequences that come along with abusing drugs, especially those students participating in athletic events. Hopefully, the team will strive to model his athletic abilities rather than try to mimic his personal choices.
Perhaps Scott’s mishaps would be overlooked if he wasn’t the second track and field coach hired in less than three years to have committed an athletic drug violation. In 2009, SDSU hired former U.S. hurdler, Larry Wade, as an assistant coach for the track and field team. In 2004, Wade tested positive for a banned steroid, 19-Norandrosterone, and was served a two-year competition ban. At that time, Wade’s employment was met with criticism, including harsh sentiments from Doug Logan, then CEO of USA Track and Field. He compared Wade’s new position to the university hiring a plagiarist in the English department.
Logan’s statement is as truthful as it is pointed. Would SDSU consider hiring a fraud as an academic professor as it would for an athletic coach? A professor who was a well-known plagiarist to the world would have a difficult time establishing both credibility and integrity inside the classroom. After all, how could a student take a cheating or plagiarism policy seriously after being lectured by a hypocritical professor?
It would be unfair, however, to disregard Scott for the assistant coach position based on his past offense. Though it is a concern not to be taken lightly, all eyes will be on him to ensure a positive working environment. Let’s just hope Scott tests as a new “positive” — a fantastic coach and inspiring role model for the team.x
—Jennifer Meram is a journalism senior.