Drug Testing, Weigh-Ins, And Sleep Bands: Reviewing Alleged Iowa Football Mistreatment

Adam Hensley

The independent review of Iowa's football program, released Thursday, questioned some of the training methods used within the 

The review conducted by Kansas City, Mo., law firm Husch Blackwell focused on racial disparities inside the program, but also looked at some of the training methods used by former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.

Doyle, the focus of many of the allegations made by former players on social media in early June, reached a separation agreement with the university and is no longer with the program.

"There are a lot of things that we've talked about, that we've discussed, unearthed, learned, and it's top to bottom, we just have to do a better job, and it all starts with good candid communication, and most importantly it's taking appropriate action and then being fair and equitable with how we move forward with it," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said during a press conference on Thursday.

The report detailed many subjects, but ultimately came to the conclusion that “the University work with Athletic Director (Gary) Barta and Head Coach Ferentz to create action steps aimed at improving the culture of the program, eliminating biases, encouraging student-athletes to report concerns of mistreatment, and amplifying the University’s policy statement against retaliation within the football program.”

Click HERE to read the report in its entirety.

One subject in the report referred to player treatment, running from weigh-ins, sleep bands, drug testing, and differential raced-based treatment allegations.

Drug testing is random, but can be requested with permission

Drug tests occurred randomly, but if a player tests positive or produces a diluted sample, they would be subject to further testing, which is not uncommon.

Ferentz could request certain players be tested, but there must be a “legitimate” reason, and his request needed to be reviewed and approved by a physician before testing.

Drug testing will no longer be held in the football facility, per the report.

"We have reviewed all of our policies, protocols and procedures," Barta said during Thursday's press conference. "We do feel that those are 

where they need to be. Just want to make sure that they're transparent, they're consistent, and then making sure ... we have not audited them on an annual basis, but for the next several years and maybe ongoing, we'll have them audited again toward that goal of ... by somebody outside of athletics toward that goal of just making sure there's transparency."

‘Strict on body weight’

Players felt pressure to make and maintain body weight, according to the report, and one player said he involuntarily threw up every morning before weigh-ins.

Coaches set requirements in regards to making weight — nothing out of the ordinary. Players who were underweight had to drink “excessive” Powerade and shakes to gain weight, the release said.

The report stated that players are weighed weekly and have to make their goals within a two-pound window, except when coming back after long breaks.

“One of the coaches confirmed that the strength and conditioning staff was ‘strict on body weight’ and that players had anxiety about body weight,” the report adds.

The weight ranges will be expanded, Ferentz said in the report, and weight goals will be a collaboration between players and staff.

Alleged verbal abuse

Several former players said they were the target of verbal abuse while with Iowa.

“One current Black player told investigators when he first joined the team, coaches told him he would never play, he was ‘shit for brains,’ and he was a ‘dick head,’” according to the report. “The player said such treatment ‘definitely (expletive) with his head for a bit.’ A different former player told investigators it ‘seemed like every Black player had two strikes the day we entered Iowa… I was either a criminal or a dumb (expletive) to these guys.’”

Majority of coaches didn’t witness race-based differential treatment

Most of the coaches interviewed did not observe differential treatment based on race.

Many current Black players said while they were not treated differently because of race, they recognized that others may have different experiences.

“Several current players, predominately White, said that they have never witnessed Black athletes being treated differently than White athletes by any member of the coaching staff,” the report added.

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Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during Thursday's press conference. (Katina Zentz/Iowa City Press-Citizen-Imagn Content Services

Most coaches did not receive race-based complaints

According to the report, “most of the coaches said that they received no complaints from players about being treated differently based on race.”

But a current student-athlete said that this was because players were afraid of treatment they’d receive if they’d speak out. Another added that when the allegations came out, he had “a sigh of relief when everyone started to write what he was feeling.”

According to a coach, one player raised concerns about “different application of the rules” after the George Floyd murder.

Called out for poor sleep

The team used sleep bands to monitor player sleep in an effort to aid in overall health, and the recorded information was reviewed by the coaching staff.

“A coach explained that, if someone had bad sleep for multiple nights, the poor sleep was ‘called out’ in front of the team, and the player would be in trouble,” the report stated. “Head Coach Ferentz agreed that players may have been ‘called out’ in front of the team.”

One player noted that Black teammates were “always” on the list each week.

Ferentz said that going forward, he will be the only coach to review the sleep data and if any conversations occur, they will happen in a private setting.

Did discipline differ from Black players and white?

“Numerous” former players said Black athletes received harsher punishments.

A former player alleged he was yelled at, kicked out of practice, and required 10 hours of community service for spitting on the turf.

“This player’s recollection was supported by a former coach and two current players who witnessed the incident and observed White players engaging in similar behavior without punishment,” the report said. “In contrast, one former player and one coach said White players were also disciplined for spitting on the turf.”

One coach added that there are disparities in the impact of rules, so much so that he talked to Ferentz about it.

“This coach told investigators that he brought the treatment of players up to Head Coach Ferentz a couple times over the last four years with no resulting change,” the report states.

What now?

Change will happen. In the report, Ferentz acknowledged multiple policies and handling of issues needed to be changed. Ferentz “intends” to move drug testing outside from the football building and weight ranges have been expanded, in addition to the discussion on sleep bands being made private and not in front of the team.

For additional content, follow Adam Hensley on Twitter @A_Hens83.

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