Random Steroid Testing for High School Athletes

by: George Spellwin

Dear friend and fellow athlete,

In an effort to cut down on the supposed growing problem of steroid use among high school athletes, some states are imposing random steroid testing for students who play sports. But can we really afford to do this and how far will the testing go?

Lets face it; there are a lot of high schools in America today that are in trouble financially. From the fact that nearly every voting ballot seems to have a school levy issue on it to the sad reality that there are students who have to share textbooks because there isnt enough for the whole class, the lack of school funding can be seen just about everywhere. Everywhere except for the small percentage of rich school districts who have plenty of money to spend and can afford the best equipment and opportunities for their students.

Unfortunately, most school systems are forced to economize and can ill-afford to blow their scarse funds on unnecessary expenditures. Things like fancy computer labs, cafeteria buffets, and lavish sports facilities are out of the question for most places as they often have to fight to get second-rate computers, serve re-heated food for lunch, and are always risk having their sports programs fall into the dreaded pay-to-play category.

So it would certainly make sense to concentrate on spending tax payers money wisely and focus school funds on whats most important. At least thats what I thought until I noticed the growing number of states that are putting high school steroid testing on a pedestal. And this makes me wonder, when did testing for steroids at the high school level become a top priority?

The subject of steroids has never been a hotter topic after all of the notoriety that its received from congress attempt at exposing juicers in the NFL, Major League Baseball, and the Olympics. Several politicians have been made famous by directing their efforts towards forcing professional sports to adopt tougher steroid testing policies. Perhaps, state lawmakers took note of this as the summer of 2005 was filled with the news of multiple states weighing the possibility of testing at the high school level.

But talk was all that ever came out of this. That is until December of 2005, when New Jerseys acting interim Governor, Richard J. Codey, signed an unprecedented executive order that made New Jersey the first state in America to test high school students for steroids and other performance enhancing drugs in all sports. The bill is set to begin in the 2006-2007 school year and calls for random steroid testing on high school athletes whose teams qualify for postseason play.

Basically, the state will test about 5% of the 10,000 student athletes who participate in postseason play and will include all 31 of the sports in which championships are offered. This means that high school fencers and bowlers who qualify for the postseason will be subjected to testing as well. Talk about a waste of money!

The plan has possibilities to expand even further in three years as lawmakers are thinking about broadening the bill to include steroid testing for non-athletes and increasing the funding beyond the $50,000 that has already been proposed for the first year. While this may cause some to think New Jersey lawmakers are insane, theyre not the only state that has imposed random steroid testing for high school athletes.

New Mexico began its own steroid testing program back in January because its Governor, Bill Richardson, believes that steroid use is not just a problem in professional sports. And much like Richard Codey, who appointed a committee to study high school steroid use, Richardson had a task force draft legislation for steroid testing. He also had a sum of $330,000 set aside for the programs funding. While the whole state has not been involved in the testing as of yet, they only test in four school districts right now, Richardson hopes the plan will one day cover the whole state.

Many more states are either in the process of enacting legislation to curb steroid use or have already done so in one form or another. California, Illinois, Texas, and Virginia are among the states that have already passed laws concerning high school steroid use. Virginia may have the toughest steroid laws of them all as any student who is found to be using steroids is ruled ineligible to play sports for two years and any coach or teacher who fails to report steroid use by a student risks losing their job.

The other states such as Illinois, California, and Texas have taken a softer stance on steroid users at the high school level as most of their reforms include education on the dangers of drug use and the implementation of steroid abuse programs to help those who have admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.

But aside from these areas, the majority of states in the U.S. still dont have any major laws or programs in place with regards to punishments or deterrents for students who choose to do steroids. And the main reason why is surprise… the cost of steroid testing. In fact, over 50% of the schools who dont have steroid testing measures in place cite the costs of the program as the major reason why this is so.

The assistant director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, Jerry Diehl, expressed his thoughts on the matter by saying, What it comes down to is do you want to buy a football helmet or do you want to buy a drug test At an average of about $100 a test, it may come down to whether you want to buy a whole football uniform versus a steroid test.

Diehl would go on to add that, Obviously, random steroid testing is a deterrent. Whether its feasible from a cost standpoint? That you dont know. When thinking about all of the other stuff that could be bought with the money that is put towards randomly testing students, its definitely questionable whether catching high school steroid users is worth the cost.

The $100 cost for a steroid test could be used for the purchase of several textbooks for students or the $1000 dollars that it would cost for 10 students to be tested could go towards buying a new computer for a school. The $330,000 that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has pledged towards funding his states steroid testing program could pay the salaries of 9 or 10 teachers for a year – or provide existing teachers with a raise.

One would think that educating students about steroids, like Illinois, Texas, and California do, might be a more effective and cheaper way of dealing with students who use these drugs. But Jerry Diehl also shed some light on this as he stated, Generally speaking, education is cheaper and you get more bang for your buck, but theres no glamour in education. (Testing) makes the news.

Due to the increased publicity for lawmakers who engage in the proposition of high school steroid testing, you can expect to hear plenty more talk this summer from states that will be considering randomly testing students in the future. Even places that rely on steroid education, like Texas, are thinking about dumping money into random testing. Minnesota, Ohio, and Florida are in the midst of such debates as well.

Where will random steroid testing stop? Who knows for sure. Right now, many states are allowing the school districts to vote on the issue but that could very well change if the federal government gets involved. And if this does happen, we could see a law mandating that all high schools do random tests and, in turn, see all of these schools blowing their money on a minor problem when there are much bigger problems that need funding.

Lets just hope that this never comes about because enough money has been wasted already. Lets also hope that glory seeking lawmakers will eventually find a new subject to pounce on and that school funds can once again be put towards what theyre really meant for: furthering the education of students.

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