Steroid testing of high school student-athletes shrinking in Texas with reduction in state funding

The Dallas Morning News reports that the random steroid testing program for University Interscholastic League (UIL) athletes in Texas is shrinking.  Although the state legislature initially funded the effort in 2007 with an annual budget of $3 million, the current allotment  is $750,000, after a cut to $1 million a year earlier. A total of 4,560 athletes are scheduled to be tested in 2010-11, compared with 35,077 in 2008-09. While Don Hooton, an anti-steroid advocate, concedes shrinking state financial resources have played a role in reduced funding for steroid testing, he believes state politicians don’t fear steroid use as much as they did when the bill was enacted because the 51,635 tests done over the last 2 ½ years have resulted in 21 positive tests, two unresolved and 139 not passing for procedure violations, such as unexcused absences.

Last spring, all 3,308 tests were clean. Two years ago, Gov. Rick Perry said the results to date indicated the funding might have been excessive. Hooton said the results of the testing, done for the UIL by Drug Free Sport, don’t accurately measure steroid use among the state’s high school athletes.

After examining the cumulative UIL test results and details of the program provided on the organization’s website, Dr. Don Catlin of the Olympic Analytical Lab at UCLA Catlin concluded: “The numbers are nowhere near what they should be for a bona fide program.”  He noted that the UIL program tests for only 10 steroids instead of at least 40 and that the 10 drugs being tested for aren’t the most pervasive among high school users. He questioned giving athletes privacy during testing because it could lead to cheating. “A poorly operated program leads people who are tested to get the impression the program doesn’t work,” Catlin said, “and they’re right.”

Dr. Mark Cousins, the UIL executive who oversees the testing as director of policy, said, “We ultimately take what the Legislature gives us in direction, what money is available, work with the contractor to put together the program,” Cousins said. “The decision of what to test for, we leave up to the company. They know what substances are out there.” According to the UIL’s most recent survey of state superintendents, 89 high schools conduct their own steroid testing in addition to the state program.

Source: Dallas Morning News, 1/2/11, By Jeff Miller

[Editor's Note: The Supreme Court found random drug testing of student-athletes to be permissible under the Fourth Amendment in 1995, then, in 2002, expanded that ruling to public school students who participate in extra-curricular activities, noting a "nationwide epidemic of drug use." The article provides statistics on the results of steroid testing in Texas since the program began and three other states where such testing is conducted. Since spring 2008, steroid testing of Texas high school athletes each semester has resulted in 162 tests not passing out of 51,635, a percentage of .003. In the other three states that do or have done testing, a total of 4,111 tests have resulted in four positives, a percentage of .00097.

•New Jersey (postseasons starting in the 2005-06 school year) - total tests: approximately 2,500, total positives: three;

•Florida (2008-09 school year) - total tests: approximately 600, total positives: one; and

•Illinois (postseasons of 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years) - total tests: 1,011, total positives: 12 (all cleared after providing explanations to state's medical review officer).

In a January 2008 Chicago Tribune article on the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) decision to implement mandatory random drug-testing, including steroids for student-athletes, Frank Uryasz, president of the National Center for Drug Free Sport, stated that while data was lacking regarding how many high school athletes take steroids, he believed anecdotal evidence indicates a need for testing. A summary of the article is available below.]

NSBA School Law Issues pages on IHSA’s drug testing policy

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