A "Borderline Preposterous" Denial

Charles Davis
February 22, 2008 — 1,223 views  
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Jacksonville State University has refused a newspaper's request for athletic-department records less than a year after the state attorney general's office said a request for copies of coaches' contracts should be granted.

The Anniston Star has been seeking the results of the school's athletic department drug-testing program since April 2007 to review its effectiveness. But the university has denied the request each time, saying it would compromise the identity of student-athletes who tested positive.

Birmingham attorney Gilbert Johnston, who handles public-records law cases, said JSU's assertion is "borderline preposterous."

University President William Meehan referred all questions on the issue to the school's attorney, Randy Woodrow of Anniston. He has said disclosure of the records could be a violation of federal laws governing medical privacy.

The Star has amended its requests to more general terms to ensure individuals could not be identified, but the school says the sample size would still make it easy to identify individual athletes.

"We understand and appreciate the university's need to protect medical privacy of these student-athletes," Star Editor Bob Davis said in a Feb. 20 story. "We believe the public has a right to know about drug testing conducted by the athletic department of a public university using public funds."

Charles Davis

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Charles N. Davis is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and the executive director for the National Freedom of Information Coalition, headquartered at the School. Davis' scholarly research focuses on access to governmental information and new media law, including jurisdictional issues, intellectual property and online libel. He has earned a Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his work in furthering freedom of information and the University of Missouri-Columbia Provost's Award for Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching, as well as the Faculty-Alumni Award.