Sports

BALCO, high school athletes using steroids, steroid use among high school students

High School Doping Test Programs Finding Few Violators

January 12, 2009 11:32 AM
by Emily Coakley
Prompted by alarming statistics and a national scandal, testing programs in three states show that steroid use does not seem to be widespread among teens.

Statewide Testing Yields Few Positive Results in Texas

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By the end of the current school year, up to 50,000 high school athletes in Texas will have been tested for steroid use. So far, four positive results have been found, and another 22 students broke testing rules—they had an unexcused absence on testing day, refused to provide a urine sample or “left the testing area without approval,” the Associated Press reported.

Texas isn’t the only state that tests for steroids, though its program is the most far-reaching. Other states have had similarly low numbers of positive tests. In Florida, a pilot program testing 600 students yielded one positive test. In 2006, New Jersey started testing students who were going to state championships, but only one of 500 students who were tested had a positive result, according to AP.

While Texas legislators decide whether or how to continue the program, advocates say the testing was meant to be a deterrent, not a trap.

“We don’t have a bunch of pelts hanging on the wall. The success is that we haven’t had a lot of positive tests,” said Republican State Rep. Dan Flynn in an interview with AP.

But some critics say the cost of testing students is too high. Texas’ program costs $6 million, and even testing a few hundred students can cost $100,000.

Other schools are eschewing testing and focusing on education, at a much lower cost. California schools, for example, require student athletes to sign pledges that they won’t use anabolic steroids, reported the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006. Some Bay Area schools won’t let students compete until they come to a meeting about steroids, with their parents.

Despite the infrequent positive tests in Texas and other states, elsewhere, concerns over steroid use are growing. In April, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control announced that it would start investigating the possible sale of steroids to high school students.

“[C]oaches from large and small school districts have called with concerns about players rapidly gaining weight and strength,” reported the Oklahoman. Some Oklahoma high schools test for steroids and other such substances, but the state doesn’t have a policy.

A 2005 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nearly 5 percent of high school students “had used steroids without a doctor’s prescription,” the Chronicle said.

Background: Doping in professional sports leads to trickle-down fears

A report published in 2007 by George Mitchell, a former U.S. Senate Leader, said at least 86 professional baseball players had used steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.

“Everyone involved in baseball over the last two decades,” the report said, also shared blame for condoning “baseball’s steroid era.”

Rumors of doping throughout other sports are prevalent, fueled by scandals in track and field, at the Tour de France and other events. FindingDulcinea reported that in May, when Jamaica’s Usain Bolt set a new 100-meter dash record, reporters asked him about performance-enhancing drugs before he had even raced.

During the past several years, media coverage of doping allegations surrounding San Francisco Giants record-breaking slugger Barry Bonds also led parents and coaches to worry that teens were getting the idea to use performance-enhancing substances, AP reported.

Reference: Steroids

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