When it comes to competitive sports in college leagues; whether it be football, soccer, track, or anything else, it is pretty normal to require athletes to be drug tested. What about the cheerleaders though?
Universities and colleges with competitive divisions require all of their athletes, including cheerleaders to be drug tested. Although the NCAA does not formally consider Cheerleading to be an officialized sport, more and more colleges are adopting the Association’s standards for drug screenings.
Maybe you’re thinking about becoming a college cheerleader and are wondering about the process.
Why Wouldn’t Cheerleaders be Screened?
Sports teams in the US require their athletes to have drug screenings. As cheerleaders are athletes, it makes sense they would be drug tested, right? Not exactly. The thing is that The National Collegiate Athletic Association does not currently consider cheerleading to be an official sport. Because of this, cheerleaders have not been required to be drug tested like other athletes are.
According to the NCAA,
“…A sport shall be defined as an institutional activity involving physical exertion with the purpose of competition versus other teams or individuals within a collegiate competition structure. Furthermore, sport includes regularly scheduled team and/or individual, head-to-head competition (at least five) within a defined competitive season(s); and standardized rules with rating/scoring systems ratified by official regulatory agencies and governing bodies.”The National Collegiate Athletic Association
What this quote and other arguments are saying is that although cheerleaders are athletes, college cheer is not a sport because some do not believe its practice is primarily intended to compete; that its sole purpose is to cheer other sports teams. (Source)
Without the NCAA requiring them, drug screenings have not been implemented as strictly upon cheer teams as they have been in officialized college sports.
Universities that require drug tests for Cheer Teams
Universities with competitive cheerleading teams meet are recognized by the NCAA and their athletes are required to be tested. Competitive cheerleaders in Divisions 1 and 2, and 3 are almost always screened as well. Frequently, teams within junior colleges and the NAIA are also tested.
Here is a list of the top Division 1, 2, and 3 cheer teams that follow the NCAA regulations, in no particular order.
- University of Kentucky
- University of Alabama
- University of Louisville
- University of Minnesota
- University of Central Florida
- Texas Tech University
- Oklahoma State University
- University of Mississippi
- Mississippi State University
- Ohio State University
- University of Tennessee
- Blinn State College
- The College of New Jersey
- Drury University
- California Baptist University
- University of West Georgia
- Wilmington University
- Oklahoma Baptist University
- University of Central Oklahoma
- Grand Valley State University
- Mckendree University
- Elmira College
- Davenport University
- SUNY Cortland
- Montclair State College
- Endicott College
- Brenau University
- Bridgewater State University
- Fitchburg State University
- Stevenson University
- Endicott College
Other schools may or may not require cheerleaders to be tested, so it is something to look up when inquiring or researching further into a particular university or college.
Why Drug Tests Happen
Drug screenings are to protect athletes and those around them from harmful substances and poor decisions that could accompany them.
Even though not all colleges are required to follow the NCAA regulations, more and more are starting to adopt the precautions that accompany drug screenings and are implementing drug tests for all athletes, including cheerleaders.
According to Lincon University’s official policy, the purpose of their drug screening is as follows:
Lincoln University is concerned with the physical, mental and emotional well-being of its students,
including those who participate in intercollegiate athletics. While the misuse of drugs and alcohol is not
condoned by the University or the Department of Athletics, it is recognized as a potential problem for all
students, especially the student-athlete. The student-athlete experiences unique pressures and risks due to
his/her involvement in intercollegiate athletics and is highly susceptible to the experimentation of drugs
In order to facilitate a more positive decision-making process for the student-athlete, the following drug
education and screening goals have been developed.
- To educate the students on the physiological and psychological dangers inherent in the misuse of drugs
- To protect the students, and others with whom they compete, from potential injury as a result of the
misuse of drugs and alcohol.
- To provide a screening program to identify student-athletes, athletic training students, studentmanagers, dance team members and cheerleaders who are improperly using drugs or alcohol. Furthermore
to assist them, through education and counseling, before they injure themselves or others or become
physiologically or psychologically dependent.
- To be in compliance with the NCAA rules and regulations regarding drug testing procedures.
- To prevent the use and distribution of performance enhancing substances.“
This has been taking place at an increased pace after an incident that occurred at after an incident at the University of Louisville. In 2014, Dani Cogswell passed away due to an accidental drug overdose. She had a beautiful impact on the world.
Because of this tragedy, an increasing amount of schools are requiring cheerleaders to be treated the same way athletes belonging to any other sports team would be (Source).
When Tests are Performed
Students must sign consent forms when joining competitive teams. This gives permission for them to be tested at selected times. Should a student’s name be on the roster, they are eligible to be tested. The contingency of when and how frequently (Source) they will be tested and screened is dependent on the contract they sign and at what school they attend (Source). Tests are performed at random in some cases.
If the contract is signed with the NCAA, the tests are performed only around tournaments (Source).
Policies and Regulations
When athletes are being tested under NCAA standards, if their drug test results come back positive, they will be penalized with a one-year NCAA suspension.
Each school and organization has its own rules and regulations it follows, so when looking into penalties and regulations, it is important to look into the specific rules of a given division and college or university. If that school requires cheerleaders to be tested, there will be specific parameters for them to live within, which will likely fall under those of other athletes at the said school