SI Vault
Edited by Robert Sullivan
December 15, 1986
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December 15, 1986


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In an attempt to curb widespread use of anabolic steroids by college athletes, the NCAA last January approved mandatory random testing for such drugs at postseason championships and football bowl games. The testing program, which stipulates a minimum suspension of 90 days for those who get caught, has now bagged its first offenders.

Two North Dakota State football players, tackle Tom Smith and defensive tackle Flint Fleming, were declared ineligible when they tested positive for steroids after the defending champion Bison's first-round 50-0 win two weeks ago over Ashland College of Ohio in the NCAA Division II playoffs. As a result, Smith and Fleming, both starters, missed North Dakota State's 35-12 win on Saturday over Central State of Ohio in the semifinals. They will also sit out the championship game this week against South Dakota. While Smith, a senior, has thus played his last college game, Fleming, a junior, can play next season if he tests drug-free in 90 days.

Smith, who went from 235 pounds last summer to 265 during this season, had passed a drug test administered by North Dakota State earlier this year. Fleming, whose weight increased from 229 to 262, was not tested in the school's random program. However, both players admitted after failing the NCAA-administered tests that they were steroid users. "It's a sad thing, but we totally support the NCAA testing program," said their coach, Earle Solomonson. "We believe it is one aspect of a needed total program to combat the use of drugs on our campuses."

The NCAA's war on drugs will continue with random testing at the upcoming major bowl games. Some players and coaches may have reason to be nervous.


Alex (Hurricane) Higgins, the tempestuous former world champion of snooker, seems to have outdone his considerable self. The 37-year-old Irishman, who has already been disciplined seven times by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, faces not only a possible suspension for recent bad behavior but also criminal charges. The complaint involves an incident that occurred after the third round of a tournament in Preston, England. It is alleged that Higgins, told he would have to undergo his second drug test of the competition, flew into a rage and head-butted the tournament director, Paul Hatherell. Hatherell ended up with a gash over his left eye, and Higgins was hauled from the room by police. As he departed he was screaming, "I'm killing myself!"

Such a brouhaha is unusual, to say the least, in the decorous atmosphere of a snooker parlor, where combatants wear tuxedos and referees white gloves. But if you told a die-hard snooker fan that such a ruckus had occurred—and in England there are plenty of folks who never miss a match on the BBC (SI, May 7. 1984)—he would instantly guess that Hurricane was at the center of the storm. Higgins's career has been marked by brawls, on-air obscenities and wild drunkenness. He suffered a 10-year slump while battling the bottle, only to reemerge in 1982 with a startling triumph in the world championships. Since then he has been a folk hero in the pubs, but this latest ugliness will try the patience of his most ardent boosters. Higgins will appear in court on Dec. 17 to answer charges of criminal assault and causing willful damage to the door of the snooker parlor.


A thousand years from now, archaeologists will sift through time capsules and conclude beyond a doubt that the downfall of Western civilization began on the playing fields of the NFL. They will cite as evidence this quote from L.A. Raiders defensive end Greg Townsend, referring to an on-field scrap: "I wasn't going to tear his lips off. That's Lyle Alzado's bit. Maybe poke his eyes out." They'll also refer to Patriots cornerback Ronnie Lippett, explaining why he doesn't maintain friendships with players on other teams: "Once you become friends, you feel like you can't hit them in the face, poke them in the eye or slam 'em or club 'em."

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