The U.S. Air Force Academy’s focus on winning football bowl games and attracting money from alumni and private sources in recent years led to a culture in which cadet athletes committed sexual assaults, took drugs, cheated and engaged broadly in other misconduct, The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported in an investigative story Sunday.
Citing allegations shown in hundreds of pages of documents released by the Air Force under the Freedom of Information Act and confirmed by dozens of interviews with academy officials, The Gazette reported out-of-control parties dating to 2010 where cadets, “including a core group of top football players, smoked synthetic marijuana, drank themselves sick and may have used date-rape drugs to incapacitate women for sexual assault.”
At one such party at the end of the regular season in 2011, an Office of Special Investigations confidential informant in attendance reported that women were served rum solely from a blue-capped bottle laced with a powerful sedative known as a date rape drug.
“The number of athletes involved was a fraction of the 1,000 cadets who participate in academy sports programs,” wrote Tom Roeder, The Gazette’s senior military reporter. “But those who misbehaved sent shockwaves through the school and its teams. The bulk of those brought under scrutiny played football for Air Force.”
In response to the report, Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson told The Gazette that she has called for an Inspector General’s investigation of the athletic department.
“These efforts will help in eliminating subcultures … whose climates do not align with our institutional core values,” she said in a statement released to the newspaper.
More than a dozen problem cadet athletes have left the academy in the past three years, including two who were tried, sentenced and served jail time for sex-related offenses, according to the report.
“One of the academy’s core values is that athletic competition breeds great leaders. The sports program has grown generals, military heroes, CEOs and members of Congress,” Roeder wrote, while noting that Johnson has been strongly involved in attempting to correct issues identified in the documents and related interviews.