SAN JOSE — Mandatory drug tests required by the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. are an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, a judge ruled Wednesday in granting a preliminary injunction sought by Stanford University diver Simone LeVant.
The ruling, in the first legal challenge to the NCAA's 1 1/2-year-old drug-testing program, applied only to LeVant but could hold broad implications for thousands of athletes.
LeVant, a 22-year-old senior, will be the only athlete in the NCAA qualifying events this weekend and possibly the championships in two weeks who will not have to submit to urine tests.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Peter G. Stone agreed with LeVant that mandatory urine tests are an obtrusive, unreasonable and unconstitutional invasion of privacy and said there is a "reasonable probability" she would win in a trial court.
Stone rejected virtually every argument posed by NCAA attorney Richard J. Archer, who said an appeal was not likely because LeVant will graduate this spring.
"I don't think other athletes will challenge (the NCAA), because they want to compete in drug-free sports," Archer said.
Archer said that Stone's ruling, even if extended beyond LeVant, would apply only to athletes in the state of California. LeVant and her attorneys, Archer said, are "relying only on the California Constitution."
Stanford Athletic Director Andy Geiger said: "Stanford voted against this particular drug-testing program at the time it was adopted, and part of our reason has been expressed in Simone LeVant's case.
"We don't think it's right that athletes are the only people to be selected out of the student body to be drug-tested. And we feel that drug education is a more appropriate way to handle drug abuse in a college environment," Geiger said.
Dave Cawood, executive director of the NCAA, declined comment "until we have had a chance to read the opinion of the court."
The judge said the testing program does not appear to accomplish its goals and has very little relationship to the health of athletes. He criticized the NCAA for not coming up with other methods to discourage drug use by athletes.
"The least obtrusive methods (of drug testing) . . . have barely been considered, much less proposed and implemented," Stone said.
Stone said the student's voluntary participation in sports does not require him or her to give up any rights, including privacy. He noted that the tests may reveal irrelevant or personal matters about the student.
The NCAA "cannot require this athlete to give up that very valuable right, the right of privacy," Stone said.
"It seems to the court that honoring the Constitution is the test," he concluded.
"I feel wonderful," LeVant said. "I am happy to hear everything the judge said. I feel I set a precedent. No other athlete has been willing to challenge the NCAA. We've won the first step. I hope this makes other athletes think about their situations more."
Robert Van Nest, one of LeVant's attorneys, said: "It is broad. It is sweeping. It is a complete repudiation of the NCAA's drug-testing program."
The preliminary injunction will remain in effect until LeVant's suit goes to trial, if it ever does. No date was set.