Cheerleader's death leaves questions, new testing for spirit leaders
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – One major change has come to the University of Louisville since cheerleader Danielle "Dani" Cogswell, 22, was found dead of a heroin and prescription drug overdose in a freshman football player's off-campus apartment almost four months ago.
"Drug testing was implemented as a direct result of her passing," said Christine Simatacolos, UofL's associate athletics director for student life.
UofL now subjects its cheerleaders, dance team members and mascots to the same tests that the NCAA requires of its athletes, even though the NCAA doesn't mandate such tests for spirit leaders.
"The tests can be random, for cause or as a condition of being on the team." Simatacolos said. By coach's directive, testing is mandatory for the men's soccer team.
Had Cogswell been drug tested, UofL might have been able to confirm what police say family members had conceded; a prolonged struggle with heroin addiction and a growing reliance on several prescription medications.
"Adderall is a drug commonly used by students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and that is on the NCAA's list of banned substances," Simatacolos said.
"They say five percent of all college students have ADHD, and 10 percent of college students have used them," said Dr. Phil Bressoud, director of Campus Health Services. "So we're not sure where they came from but there's probably some sharing going on."
Adderall has become a popular stimulant for students trying to study for exams, and as an energy boost for those juggling jobs and classwork, Dr. Bressoud said.
Cogswell's autopsy showed she had amphetamine salts, a generic Adderall, in her system. Police found prescriptions for them in her apartment, as well as two anti-depressants: fluoxetine and bupropion. Investigators also found evidence of Vivitrol-often prescribed as an antidote for heroin overdoses, and to control an addict's cravings.
More students have been seeking help for heroin use, Dr. Bressoud said. "But I can't say that her (Cogswell's) death had anything to do with it."
"What I can tell you, is that you have no idea how much is in that syringe when you shoot up, or its quality," he said. "Very dangerous."
Federal privacy laws prevent disclosing how many athletes or spirit team members have failed drug tests, nor the number of tests UofL has administered, Simatacolos said.
"Several disciplinary actions have been made public, and NCAA rules are clear about the penalties that using of certain drugs carry," she said. But UofL also has flexibility when dealing with violations by spirit team members.
Still unanswered is how Cogswell obtained heroin, and whether all the medications found in her system, and her apartment, had been duly prescribed.
As of Wednesday evening, police had not responded to telephone requests for comment.
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