Public hearing held to discuss coach’s drug test

Published 7:00 am Thursday, March 8, 2018

During the last few games of Picayune Maroon Tide’s basketball season, Head Coach Kelton Thompson was absent from courtside.

When the Item asked the Picayune School District’s administration for a reason for his absence, a clear answer was not provided.

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Wednesday morning, the first of a multi-day hearing was held where the details about why he’s no longer employed by the District began and included Thompson’s arguments on why he should still be the head coach.

Nathaniel Armstead of the Armstead Law Firm in Brookhaven, presided over the hearing. During his introduction, he said he would be acting as the facilitator for the flow of evidence that would be presented. The cause for the hearing, which Thompson requested be open to the public, was to present facts based on Thompson’s employment with the District and whether proper protocols for his random drug test were followed correctly, said Thompson’s defense attorney, Pat Zachary of Hattiesburg. Attorneys representing the Picayune School District were Elizabeth Maron and Jim Keith. 

Opening statements from Zachary indicated that he intended to prove that the proper drug testing protocols were not followed when Thompson was randomly selected for a drug test.

Maron said that her evidence would show that Thompson was simply called for a drug screen due to his status as a Commercial Driver’s License holder.

Rodney Dyess, owner of DCS and Associates LLC and a member of the Pearl River County School Board of Trustees, was there for the drug test, which was conducted on Feb. 7.

Dyess said he was present for the test because his company recently obtained the contract to conduct drug testing for the Picayune School District, as of Oct. of 2017. The DCS and Associates LLC employee heading up the Department of Transportation drug testing, Leah Walker, had just received her certification to conduct DOT drug testing in January of 2018.

Dyess and Walker both testified that after Thompson arrived for his test, he was initially unable to provide a sample on two prior occasions.

A short time later, Thompson asked for some chewing tobacco so he could relax, to which Dyess and Walker testified that he was denied due to the campus being tobacco free.

Dyess said that Thompson then called his assistant coach to bring him a bag with his tobacco, which was placed in a room down the hall. While working on paperwork, the two drug testing employees noticed that Thompson had left the observation room and went to the room with the bag to retrieve his tobacco. Dyess said he then went to find Thompson, who was already returning to the observation area.

A few minutes later, Thompson was able to provide a sample, and Dyess and Walker acted as observers, standing outside of Thompson’s bathroom stall. Walker and Dyess testified that they heard a suspicious noise while Thompson was in the stall, later flushing the toilet and when he exited with the sample, he placed it immediately on the table in the room and then washed his hands. The cup the sample was collected in includes a temperature gauge that reads between 90 to 100 degrees to ensure it was not altered. Dyess said he noticed the gauge was not providing a reading, so he picked the cup up and noticed it was cool to the touch. Walker testified that at some point shortly after that she discarded the sample in the toilet.

Dyess and Walker both testified that the sample was flushed because Thompson was advised not to flush the toilet or wash his hands so that they could ensure the sample was not altered.

When Thompson was asked to provide a second sample in view of Dyess, Thompson ultimately declined due to being unconfortable and left the testing area.

Zachary later called his expert witness, Michael Todd Roland, owner of ARCpoint Labs in Covington, La. After establishing Roland’s credentials as an expert witness, Maron objected. But her objection was ultimately overruled by Armstead, and he was allowed to testify as an expert witness.

Roland’s testimony pointed out a number of flaws with the test conducted on Thompson by Dyess and Walker, including the fact that his sample was thrown out before he declined to take a second test in view of Dyess, paperwork was improperly filled out and that Thompson should not have been on the list to take drug screen because he was not given a pre-employment drug screen as required by DOT regulations.

Evidence was also presented to show that Thompson took two other drug tests within 24 hours at local medical facilities after the random test at the school. Pharmacologist and toxicologist William George said he reviewed those tests and determined both were negative for drugs.

At the end of the day, the hearing concluded with no date set to continue the proceedings.