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In practice, though, the NCAA’s roughly 11,000 annual tests amount to just a fraction of all athletes in Division I and II schools. Exactly how many tests are conducted each year on football players is unclear because the NCAA hasn’t published its data for two years. And when it did, it periodically changed the formats, making it impossible to compare one year of football to the next.

Even when players are tested by the NCAA, people involved in the process say it’s easy enough to anticipate the test and develop a doping routine that results in a clean test by the time it occurs. NCAA rules say players can be notified up to two days in advance of a test, which Catlin says is plenty of time to beat a test if players have designed the right doping regimen. By comparison, Olympic athletes are given no notice.

“Everybody knows when testing is coming. They all know. And they know how to beat the test,” Catlin said, adding, “Only the really dumb ones are getting caught.”

Players are far more likely to be tested for drugs by their schools than by the NCAA. But while many schools have policies that give them the right to test for steroids, they often opt not to. Schools are much more focused on street drugs like cocaine and marijuana. Depending on how many tests a school orders, each steroid test can cost $100 to $200, while a simple test for street drugs might cost as little as $25.

When schools call and ask about drug testing, the first question is usually, “How much will it cost,” Turpin said.

Most schools that use Drug Free Sport do not test for anabolic steroids, Turpin said. Some are worried about the cost. Others don’t think they have a problem. And others believe that since the NCAA tests for steroids their money is best spent testing for street drugs, she said.

Wilfert, the NCAA official, said the possibility of steroid testing is still a deterrent, even at schools where it isn’t conducted.

“Even though perhaps those institutional programs are not including steroids in all their tests, they could, and they do from time to time,” she said. “So, it is a kind of deterrence.”

For Catlin, one of the most frustrating things about running the UCLA testing lab was getting urine samples from schools around the country and only being asked to test for cocaine, marijuana and the like.

“Schools are very good at saying, ‘Man, we’re really strong on drug testing,’” he said. “And that’s all they really want to be able to say and to do and to promote.”

That helps explain how two school drug tests could miss Maneafaiga’s steroid use. It’s also possible that the random test came at an ideal time in Maneafaiga’s steroid cycle.

Enforcement varies

The top steroid investigator at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Joe Rannazzisi, said he doesn’t understand why schools don’t invest in the same kind of testing, with the same penalties, as the NFL. The NFL has a thorough testing program for most drugs, though the league has yet to resolve a long-simmering feud with its players union about how to test for human growth hormone.

“Is it expensive? Of course, but college football makes a lot of money,” he said. “Invest in the integrity of your program.”

For a school to test all 85 scholarship football players for steroids twice a season would cost up to $34,000, Catlin said, plus the cost of collecting and handling the urine samples. That’s about 0.2 percent of the average big-time school football budget of about $14 million. Testing all athletes in all sports would make the school’s costs higher.

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