A year later, the effectiveness of mandatory high-school athlete steroid testing under microscope

The current debate over the success of the Texas steroid testing program reminds me of the story of the inner city school that had a gun violence problem. To address the problem, school officials put up metal detectors at each entrance. A year later, when gun violence had dropped to zero, did the school officials question their investment and yield to those who argued that “we never had a gun problem in the first place”? Or to those who argue that we might hurt our children’s feelings because we’re showing them that we don’t trust them? Of course not!

Surveys designed to determine drug usage levels have ALL demonstrated usage rates in the 4-6% range, higher than drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetimines, and other drugs. That is the number of kids that ADMIT that they’ve been using anabolic steroids. We’ve argued all along that the purpose of the testing program is to deter kids from using these drugs. To provide our best and brightest kids a reason to say “no”.

I should also comment about the tests themselves. While there are over 100 different types of steroids, our program only tests for 10. We should logically ask ourselves, “did we pick the right 10 steroids to test for”?

Finally, I cannot resist responding to Dr. Diane Elliot who is quoted in this article saying that testing may actually harm the camaraderie between a player and coach, who has an educational role to play in curbing abuse. “It gets the kids thinking about people in the school like you might think about traffic cops,” Elliot said. “It gives kids a real mixed message: ‘Do you trust me or not?’.”

To return to the gun violence example, should we take down the metal detectors because “someone’s feelings might get hurt”? Or do we stick with a program that has proven itself to be effective in protecting the health and lives of our children?

Don

Dallas Morning News, 8/21/2009

More than a year has passed since the state implemented one of the world’s most ambitious steroids testing programs at Texas high schools. The results so far: $6 million spent to test 45,193 student athletes, 19 of whom came up positive.

That last number, depending on your perspective, either refutes the need for testing or validates it as a successful deterrent.

“We have a program that proved it worked by virtue of the fact that so few kids were caught doing steroids,” said Don Hooton, founder of the Plano-based Taylor Hooton Foundation, which raises steroids awareness. “For those that are making the argument that it proves we don’t have a steroid problem is dangerously naive.”

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