Drug testing getting popular in high schools

12.04.2007

By Marie V. Thesbjerg
Texas Senate approves the largest programme of random steroid tests for athletes in Texan high schools. WADA applauds the efforts. Meanwhile schools in Australia protest against drug testing of non-elite Australian children.

Texas public high school athletes are facing mandatory random steroid tests in order to play sports under a proposed law approved by the Senate. It is the largest high school testing programme in the country testing 22,000 public school athletes starting next fall.

"This will send a message to stop illegal steroid use in our high schools," Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who introduced the bill in Senate, said to The Associated Press.

"I think this will make high school athletics safer," said Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, the sponsor of the measure. The bill passed 28-2 and now goes to the House.

Studies have shown as many 1 million high school students nationwide have taken steroids and as many as 40,000 inTexas, Dewhurst said. Under the proposed law, refusal to take a test will be considered a positive test. An initial positive test would bring a suspension of at least 30 days. A second would bring a one-year suspension, followed by a permanent ban for a third.

The first steroid testing programme for highs schools athletes in the US was initiated in New Jersey in 2006. 

$200 per test
Critiques have asked if the testing programme is worth the money. Texas lawmakers considered a testing programme in 2005 but it failed when local school districts balked at the costs. Estimates for steroid tests range as high as $200 per test.

The two chambers disagree on how to pay for the program. The Senate would have the state bear the cost of up to $4 million per year. The House would require the state's governing body for high school sports - University Interscholastic League - to assess a fee on sports tickets to pay for the tests.

Some Texas schools already are testing, and their numbers are growing. A survey in 2005 found that 53 schools tested athletes for steroids. By 2006, that number rose to 127. The law also would require all middle school and high school coaches to complete a training program on the dangers of steroid use. 

Heated debate in Australian on drug tests in schools
The testing of children in high schools has recently created a heated debate in Australia. While an expert urges more testing in Australian high schools, the heads of Australian Independent Schools met the government's anti-doping authority to protest against the drug testing of school children at sports carnivals which they find invasive.

Last month students from a high school in the east of Sydney were forced to strip and provide officials at a regatta with urine samples, in front of an official from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA). The revelation sparked outrage because ASADA did not seek the consent of the students' parents.

The New South Wales Association of Independent Schools spokesman, Geoff Newcombe, said ASADA shouldn't be allowed to drug test children who are not elite athletes. But ASADA says it has the right to test any children who play sport covered by an anti-doping policy at any time, say ABC Radio Australia.

Meanwhile, Drugs in Sport lecturer Geoff Sussman of Monash University calls for drug testing to be introduced as part of a wider education programme targeting junior sport. He said screening young amateurs will help stamp out the drug taking habit dogging elite sport.

“My attitude is that we have got to stamp out the use of drugs within children. If you start with children, you’ve got a better chance of preventing it escalating,” he told Australian Associated Press

WADA applauds the steroid testing in high schools:

“Generally speaking, WADA encourages and is supportive of any effort made to fight against doping in sport at all levels. While deterrence through testing and anticipation through research play an important role in catching athletes who cheat by doping, in the long term education plays a central role in the creation of a true anti-doping culture. These approaches are complementary,” says WADA’s manager for Media Relations & Communications, Frédéric Donzé.

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