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Another N.C. A&T official fired over track tryout death

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In another development in the case of the N.C. A&T University student who died after collapsing at a sports tryout, A&T has fired an associate athletics director and suspended its head trainer.

Jospin “Andre” Milandu died after collapsing at a track-and-field tryout on Aug. 19, 2010. In October, the N.C. Medical Examiner’s Office cited complications of sickle cell trait and physical exertion as the cause of his death.

The young athlete’s death could have been avoided, according to a doctor who an expert on the sickle cell trait and college athletics policy regarding testing for it.

The NCAA mandated on Aug. 1 that all students trying out for sports teams be tested for sickle cell trait, show proof of a test, or sign a release. In Milandu’s case, none of these requirements were met.

News reports recently have revealed that two days before Milandu’s death, an e-mail was sent to several A&T coaches, including the track coach, asking that sickle cell tests be requested only for students who had made the team, not for students trying out. The reason given was that the tests were too costly.

This week, N.C. A&T Associate Athletics Director Merlene Aitken was fired. Chief athletics trainer Roland Lovelace, who sent out the e-mail, was suspended with pay.

Aitken was copied on the e-mail, but university officials did not find it in an initial investigation into Milandu’s death.

After its first investigation into Milandu’s death, the school fired Athletics Director Wheeler Brown and Darryl Hills, NCAA compliance director, in October.

In speaking to the UNC Board of Governors’ Governance Committee Thursday, N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold Martin said that Lovelace and Aitken did not offer complete information initially, according to an editorial in the News & Record newspaper of Greensboro.

A doctor who was one of the key members of the group drafting the NCAA policy said that Milandu’s death could have been prevented if N.C. A&T had followed NCAA rules for physicals. “They were mandated to screen him,” said Dr. Randy Eichner, professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. “If they had done that, then they would have known about the trait.”

According to an attorney representing the family, A&T officials visited the family after Milandu’s death and asked them to agree to a $10,000 settlement in the death of their son.

An A&T spokesperson said that the $10,000 is an accidental death insurance policy covering each student. The family didn’t take the policy, their attorney said.