Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

If you were wondering what it takes to write a good, old-fashioned Scary New Drugs! article, it takes 12 failed tests and a principal's testimony in open court about using "spice," the scary-sounding and "highly addictive" pot-like substance.

That's your six-month investigation that the sleuths at ESPN The Magazine and E: 60 "conducted" in the latest scare 'em up story about Drugs In Our Schools.


The 2010 national champion Auburn Tigers were gripped by an epidemic of synthetic marijuana use that led to a rash of failed drug tests and a decision at the highest levels of the university to keep the results confidential, ESPN has learned.

A six-month investigation by ESPN The Magazine and "E:60" into the spread of synthetic marijuana at Auburn reveals that a dozen students on the football team, including its star running back, Michael Dyer, failed tests for the designer drug. The investigation also found that because the school did not implement testing for the drug until after it won the national championship in January 2011, as many as a dozen other seniors who used synthetic marijuana were never caught.


In investigating the use of "highly addictive" synthetic pot at Auburn, ESPN took Michael Dyer's trial (on charges related to his teammates' alleged robbery) testimony of chronic use combined with a "jailhouse" interview where Dyer said half the team used spice, and threw in a whole lot of drug-crusader buzzwords. That's how you get "an epidemic of synthetic marijuana use" at Auburn.


Synthetic pot was banned in Alabama by emergency order on October 24, 2011. President Obama signed a bill into law on July 9, 2012, making it illegal at the federal level as well. That is important context. Buried 12 paragraphs into the story comes some additional, important context from Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs, discussing his knowledge of the "12 positive tests for synthetic marijuana":

Because synthetic marijuana was new, Jacobs contended in an interview, it was not yet part of the university's official drug-testing policy and therefore not something coaches could punish students for using.


Dakota Mosley, who's also on trial for the botched robbery and could possibly be at the center of various recruiting violations, failed seven tests himself. Mosley failed the tests, The Magazine says, and "[i]nstead of being kicked off the team, Mosley was brought into then-coach Gene Chizik's office and told he could keep his spot on the team." Instead of being kicked off the team. How's that for some paternalism? At the time we are told this was all going on, Dakota Mosley had violated exactly zero school (spice was added to Auburn's banned list in August 2011), state, or federal regulations with regard to the "highly addictive" synthetic marijuana epidemic for which he was apparently 7/12 responsible.

And what about that "highly addictive" synthetic marijuana? Under the "What are the other health effects of spice" section on, our government informs us that "[r]egular users may experience withdrawal and addiction symptoms." Scary stuff, but it gets worse, I'm afraid. ESPN notes that spice is responsible for approximately 11,000 emergency room visits a year. 11,000. That's a big number.

Statistics released by the government’s Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) found that chemicals known to be additives in products like “Spice” and “K2″ were the cause of 11,406 emergency room visits in 2010. Scary as it sounds, that number is far fewer than the 1,345,645 emergency room patients admitted for misuse or abuse of prescription drugs. It is also less than the 461,028 emergency room visits sparked by marijuana, which is known to be much less toxic than other drugs of abuse.


The whole thing is just classic pearl-clutching. In this story you are presented a very specific set of facts and asked to reach a conclusion completely at odds with those facts. That Auburn, despite having no official policy, "covered up" an "epidemic" of substance abuse (of substances that were not even illegal at the time) and therefore should have kicked players off the team.

This story wants you so outraged about drug use that it wanted Auburn to call the players mothers. Seriously, "not one parent was notified." They literally got quotes from one player's mom. Shaun Kitchens, also awaiting trial for robbery charges, has ESPN to thank for this paragraph living on in perpetuity.

Kitchens' mother, Kimberly Harkness, a nursing assistant, told The Magazine that she would have put her son into rehab if she'd known. She said she spoke with her son two weeks before the robbery by phone while he was in the office of Trooper Taylor, the team's assistant head coach. Not a word was mentioned about the synthetic marijuana test that the wide receiver failed, or suspicions that was the reason why he was skipping class and missing team meetings.

"I knew something was wrong but I couldn't put my finger on it," Harkness said. "I feel like Auburn betrayed me."


Where are these outraged articles, the calls to parents, when schools really fail their students? Investigations into campus-tyrants like Mike Rice should outnumber these moronic drug hit-pieces by the hundreds, but here we are talking about a school "gripped" by a "rash" of drug tests and an "epidemic." A fucking epidemic. The black death was an epidemic. Teenagers smoking weed is "college."

Share This Story

Get our newsletter