Others should learn from Jarmon's mistake

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMay 24, 2009 

A good kid is paying for what the bad kids do.

Jeremy Jarmon messed up. Let's be clear here. The University of Kentucky football player didn't do what he was supposed to do, and even if his mistake was minor, his punishment is still major.

You can blame the NCAA if you want, and that's fine. Jeremy Jarmon says he wasn't cheating, not intentionally, but you can blame the cheaters.

That's the way it works.

But, in the end, maybe Jarmon can help the good kids, too.

See, he's not blameless. The Kentucky defensive end admitted that Saturday morning, sitting before the media — a stand-up thing to do, something he wasn't required to do — facing the music for a sad tune, news that the Tennessee native had tested positive for a substance banned by the NCAA, thus ending Jarmon's collegiate career.

We're not talking steroids. We're talking an over-the-counter dietary supplement. We're talking about a supplement Jarmon said he purchased when he went to buy vitamins at a health-food store. We're talking about a supplement Jarmon said he used as he tried to fulfill a New Year's resolution to drop weight.

And we're not talking about a bad kid, either. Just the opposite. We're talking about a student-athlete who, by everyone's estimation, represents what a student-athlete is supposed to be about.

But see, with regard to drugs, the NCAA is tired of the talk. It's into action. And in this case, Jarmon was tripped up by his own inaction.

Under NCAA guidelines, UK tells its athletes — time after time after time — to ask before putting anything into their bodies not provided by the school. Investigate before taking. Jarmon assumed instead of asking. That was his mistake.

"I always had full intentions of telling the staff exactly what I was taking at an earlier date," said Jarmon, who has already obtained his degree but had one year of football eligibility, "but I was occupied with rehabbing (a shoulder injury) and, when I finally decided to inform the staff of my decision to take this supplement, it was too late."

On Feb. 24, the NCAA arrived in town for random drug testing. Thirty-eight football players were selected. Jarmon was one of the 38. He tested positive. UK appealed. On Thursday, the NCAA denied the appeal.

"It's been a rough 48 hours," Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said after Saturday's news conference.

The reason isn't because Kentucky is losing a key cog in what could be an excellent defense next season. The reason is because the program is losing a quality person, a locker-room leader.

Does the punishment fit the crime? Taken as an individual case, no. But if the NCAA is serious about cleaning up the game, then its rules have to be strict, its penalties have to carry significant weight. The players are warned.

"(The rules are) consistent based on precedent, and we've got to honor those," said Barnhart. "It may not always feel right, but there is precedent, and it is consistent."

Jarmon can still be an example. Dietary supplements exist in a shadowy, complicated drug world, one unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

"You can order something online that has a banned substance," said James Madison Coach Mickey Matthews in January after defensive lineman J.D. Skolnitsky tested positive for a banned substance in an over-the-counter supplement.

"You can go to the grocery store, any nutrition store, drugstore, and you can buy something over the counter that has banned substances, banned by the NCAA. That's what happened."

That's what happened to Jeremy Jarmon, a good kid paying for what bad kids do.

And maybe that will be the silver lining in all of this. Maybe other student-athletes, other good kids, will realize that if it can happen to a Jeremy Jarmon, it can happen to them.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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