Posted on May 9, 2006 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 06-03
May 9, 2006
Student-Athlete Testing Records

After the Athletic Department of the University of Hawaii, Manoa withheld records relating to the Athletic Department’s testing of student-athletes for banned substances, the Honolulu Advertiser appealed that denial to OIP. Specifically, the Honolulu Advertiser requested access to records relating to the number of student-athletes who tested positive and the specific actions taken by the Athletic Department with respect to those student-athletes.

Although OIP agreed that the student-athletes’ privacy interests protected the identity of the student-athletes, in this case, because the request specifically did not seek disclosure of the names of the student-athletes, the question was whether the requested information would allow the public to reasonably determine the identity of a student-athlete who had tested positive for a banned substance.

With respect to the number of positive tests, OIP decided that the number of positive test results, alone, provided insufficient information from which somebody could reasonably identify individual student-athletes who tested positive. OIP therefore concluded that the UIPA did not support the Athletic Department’s denial of that information and directed that the Athletic Department disclose the total number of positive test results.

The breakdown of the specific sanctions imposed against the student-athletes who tested positive, however, in OIP’s opinion, could reasonably allow the public to identify the student-athletes. OIP reasoned that, based upon the Athletic Department’s representation that very few student-athletes received the same sanction as those who tested positive for a banned substance, all of the student-athletes receiving that sanction would be stigmatized, a clearly unwarranted invasion of the student-athletes’ privacy interests. OIP determined that the Athletic Department was allowed to withhold the breakdown of actions taken against the student-athletes as a result of a positive test.

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