The LSU Athletic Department has made two changes to its substance abuse policy to help educate and support student-athletes in making the right decisions.

The LSU athletic department recently implemented two changes in its substance-abuse policy designed to help educate newly enrolled student-athletes and provide support in making positive lifestyle changes.

Put into place in June was a “first-term enrollee” rule in which new student-athletes  — freshmen, junior-college transfers and transfers from other institutions — don't immediately go into the drug-testing program for a positive test result from their initial medical screening.

Also, student-athletes who test positive at any time at LSU can now have it expunged from their record if they remain clean for four months. The old rule required an athlete to be clean for six months to have a strike removed.

The changes were first reported Thursday night by in a story about LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton’s failed appeal in a battle with the NCAA over a two-year suspension he received for tampering with a drug test in 2017.

LSU senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar, the administrator for the Athletic Department Assistance Program, told The Advocate on Friday that neither change was related to the Fulton case.

Under the first-term enrollee rule, Segar said student-athletes testing positive will be referred to an educational/treatment program and will not be assessed a positive under the drug testing policy if they complete treatment and remain clean of illicit substances for eight weeks.

It’s a one-time chance to make good with the proper education and treatment, she said, without incurring a first strike shortly after arriving on campus.

“Instead of moving the student straight into the (testing) policy and giving them one strike, we give them an education and an opportunity,” said Segar, who referred to it as sort of an amnesty program. “If they don’t have another positive, they don’t enter the drug-testing policy.”

Subsequent positive tests, however, will be considered countable violations, according to the school’s student-athlete substance-abuse policy.

Student-athletes who test positive for street drugs and other banned substances twice are sidelined for 10 percent of their sport’s schedule (for football, that would be one game), and a third offense results in a 50-percent suspension. 

Under the new first-term enrollee rule, a student-athlete could fail four drug tests — if he or she were clean for eight weeks after an initial positive screening — before missing half of his or her season.

“We give them, basically, eight weeks of education,” Segar explained. “We talk to them about what’s going on and treat it like a medical concern. If they test positive again after eight weeks, obviously, they’ll go into the regular program.

“I think it was more about educating students and trying to get them on the right path to making better decisions instead of making them feel like, ‘Gosh, I just walked in and I’m already in trouble.’ Instead of being punitive or entering a policy that becomes punitive, we’re trying to help them make that choice.”

Segar said the change from having a positive test expunged after four months being clean instead of six made sense in that student-athletes sometimes make a mistake and never do it again.

“A kid who made a bad choice a lot of times can make a change,” she said. “If they do well in four months' time and get to remove that strike, they feel good about it and we might not have the problem ever again.”

Segar said those were the only changes made to LSU’s substance abuse policy.

The story noted LSU isn’t the only school to adjust its drug-testing penalty structure.

According to the report, Georgia revised its policy a year ago and other schools have as well to make it more lenient on offenders as recreational drugs become more accepted in society.

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.