Before today, I had no idea what the penalty for a failed NCAA drug test was because it's rare to actually hear about one. Mitch McGary is the NCAA equivalent of the lochness. If there was ever a need for a union or an organization that represented student-athletes, McGary's year-long suspension is a prime example.
Last month, McGary tested positive for marijuana meaning that he would be facing a one year suspension for a positive test. After the Wolverines heartstopping win over Tennessee in the Sweet 16, McGary was selected for a random NCAA drug test even though he hadn't been active in months after undergoing back surgery. McGary says he's not a habitual user, bu thtat he relented to peer pressure one night and made a mistake.
If you're wondering how Tyronn Mathieu could grow a depository of Mary Jane in his dorm while McGary was suspended for one test, recognize that there's a difference between the NCAA's test and a test conducted by individual athletic departments. Teams can handle positive tests internally. A failed test at Michigan would have resulted in a suspension for 10 percent of the season and a week away from all team activities. A second suspension is for half the season and a third results in permanent ineligibility. The NCAA tosses athletes into the dungeon with an archaic punishment that doesn't fit the "crime".
McGary planned to return for his junior season to improve his draft stock, but the suspension forced Michigan's big man to do a 180 and bolt for the draft. McGary's story is another reason why coming back for another season is always dangerous. There were murmurs that McGary could have been a lottery pick last season. Instead, he'll be going pro after an injury-riddled season and he's now an afterthought to scouts. To make matters worse, he's still rehabbing his back and it remains to be seen how conditioned he is for draft workouts and the pre-Draft NBA combine.
The NCAA's draconian laws are the toughest in sports, but in the NBA's policy against toking up is one of the laxest in American pro sports. In the long run, this may be for the best.