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AU responds to ESPN story alleging widespread synthetic marijuana

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Auburn University officials are reacting strongly to online reports of wrongdoing in the Tigers football program. Thursday evening Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs sent an open letter to the Auburn Family and also released a statement that Auburn gave to ESPN.

The ESPN letter was in response to a story alleging widespread use of synthetic marijuana on the Tigers' 2010 BCS National Championship team and that accuses AU of not telling players' parents about positive drug test results.

Here are the two letters in full:

AUBURN ATHLETICS STATEMENT PROVIDED TO ESPN ON SYNTHETIC MARIJUANA STORY: 

After a thorough internal review, the Auburn Athletics Department believes many of the allegations made by the individuals interviewed for this story are baseless and inaccurate. 

As the District Attorney told a jury in open court a year ago, Auburn football and Auburn's policies had nothing to do with what happened the night that four former football players were arrested for armed robbery. Unfortunately, the defendants in this case are simply facing theconsequences of their actions. 

The facts clearly demonstrate that the Auburn Athletics Department and the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics acted appropriately and aggressively in response to the growing threat of synthetic marijuana during the 2010-2011 academic year. 

Auburn Athletics began testing its student-athletes for synthetic marijuana three days after a test became available.  Since our drug testing policy was amended to include synthetic marijuana as a banned substance, there have been three positive tests for the drug out of more than 2,500 drug tests administered. 

All of our student-athletes are regularly educated on the harms of all types of substance use and abuse, including synthetic marijuana. In addition to education, any student-athletes who test positive for drugs are required to seek professional counseling. 

Auburn Athletics has always and will continue to put the wellbeing of our student-athletes at the forefront of our mission. 

OPEN LETTER TO AUBURN FAMILY FROM JAY JACOBS 

Dear Auburn Family, 

You may have seen a story on ESPN.com this eveningabout the former Auburn football players who were dismissed two years ago for their involvement in an armed robbery. 

The story chronicles the former players' use of synthetic marijuana, which the defendants in the robbery case have used as their primary defense in court. We expect another, more in-depth story to appear in an upcoming print edition of ESPN The Magazine. 

We cooperated with ESPN in the story because of how appropriately and aggressively the Auburn Athletics Department and the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics acted in response to the growing threat of synthetic marijuana during the 2010-2011 academic year. 

As a father of three, I sympathize with the parents of the young men who face prison sentences for their alleged involvement in the armed robbery. While they have a right to speak out, I have an obligation to share the facts, whichclearly show Auburn Athletics tried to help these former student-athletes. 

Some of the statements made in the story are wrong and need to be corrected, while others need to be put into proper context. One player interviewed by ESPN, for example, alleges that up to half of the 2010 football team was using synthetic marijuana. It's hard to be more wrong than that. The facts and our drug testing results simply do not support such a claim.

A parent interviewed told ESPN they would have done more to help her son had we done more to let her know he was in trouble. That is incorrect. The facts demonstrate that our coaches and Sports Medicine professionals had regular communication with the parents and that every effort was made to warn our student-athletes about the dangers of synthetic marijuana. 

Allow me to share with you the facts that we provided to the reporter. Some of them were included in the initialstory. Some were not. 

• Auburn Athletics began testing for synthetic marijuana three days after our testing company made a test available. A test became available on Jan. 24, 2011, and Auburn added the test to its panel on Jan. 27, 2011.

• Since our drug testing policy was amended to include synthetic marijuana as a banned substance, there have been three positive tests for the drug out of more than 2,500 drug tests administered. Those three individuals are no longer on Auburn Athletics rosters.

• As soon as our Director of Sports Medicine was aware that synthetic marijuana was a drug readily available in convenience stores in the fall of 2010, Auburn Athletics contacted our drug testing company to inquire about whether they had a test for synthetic marijuana and when one would be made available. They did not have a test at the time.

At the same time, our Director of Sports Medicine began education efforts aimed at our coaches and student-athletes.

• Auburn Athletics provided urine samples to the drug testing company to assist them in their efforts to develop a test.

• The Director of Sports Medicine and former Coach Gene Chizik both addressed the football team about the dangers of synthetic marijuana at multiple team meetings in the Fall of 2010, before a test was available. A story about the drug was placed on the locker of every football player on the team.

• Within the first few months of testing, 3 percent of our student-athletes tested positive for synthetic marijuana.

• Phone records show that more than 50 phone calls were made to the parents of two former student-athletes who were interviewed by ESPN.

• The father of one of the student-athletes who was apparently interviewed by ESPN was sent a letter informing him that his son had failed a drug test for regular marijuana two months before the robbery.

• The Auburn Drug Testing/Drug Education Advisory Committee recommended to the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics that synthetic marijuana be added to the Auburn Athletics drug testing policy on March 14, 2011. The policy change was adopted that day.

• Penalties for the use of synthetic marijuana were put into place for the next academic year beginning in August of 2011. Since it became a banned substance under the drug testing policy, only three student-athletes have tested positive for synthetic marijuana out of more than 2,500 tests administered. 

I hope the facts clear up any misconceptions about drug use among our student-athletes. It is important for you to know that Auburn Athletics conducts approximately 1,500 drug tests each academic year. Less than one percent of our student-athletes test positive for illegal substances.

INFORMATION SOURCE: Auburn University Athletics Dept. 

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