Christie asked to act on NJ high school steroid testing

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New Jersey lawmakers are trying to keep young athletes in the weight room and away from career-threatening performance-enhancing drugs.

A bill that would support this is awaiting Gov. Chris Christie’s signature after easily winning Assembly and Senate approval.

Bill S367 would appropriate $45,000 to the state Department of Education to help restore year-round random drug testing by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.

The association’s current policy calls for drug testing of athletes only right before or during state championship competition. The consequence for failing a drug test is a one-year suspension of the player.

One of the bill’s sponsors is Sen. Richard Codey, D-Essex/Morris, an avid follower of New Jersey sports and a long-time youth basketball coach.

“While coaches continue to play an important role in encouraging safe and healthy practices for improving performance and are best positioned to recognize any red flags among student-athletes, the responsibility must be shared by the schools and the community,” Codey said in a statement. “By raising awareness and educating our students about the dangers of using steroids and other supplements, we can prevent the problem before it even begins.”

As acting governor in 2005, Codey signed an executive order that escalated drug testing of high school athletes. The same year, a task force recommended increased efforts by coaches to educate players on the risks of drug use, while promoting healthy nutrition. At the time, the task force reported that 3.4 percent of high school senior athletes in the state had used steroids at least once in their lives, while 1.9 percent of eighth-graders admitted to trying steroids.

Tim Lengle, Rider University’s head athletic trainer, was a member of that task force. He said that a turning point came from testimony of the parents of the late Taylor Hooton, a Plano, Texas, high school baseball player who took his own life in 2003. The 17-year-old suffered depression after discontinuing use of anabolic steroids. The Taylor Hooton Foundation now helps fight steroid abuse.

“Some people associate steroid abuse only with the huge guy in the gym,” Lengle said. “But there are many different kinds of abusers. It’s important to know the kind of negative impact they can have on the body.”

Steroid abuse can cause serious health problems, especially for adolescents. These side effects could include testicular atrophy and enlarged breasts for males, and excessive hairiness and altered menstrual cycles for females, Lengle said.

Besides increased testing, the bill would require high school coaches to set up educational programs aimed at deterring drug use while encouraging healthy lifestyles. Lengle said that while this may seem like a great idea, coaches might have to educate themselves first.

“Some high school coaches may not be the right people to set up these courses.” he said. “Some coaches are also physical education teachers, and these people know how to guide students towards nutrition and healthy living. But some coaches may not be willing to sit through a course on the dangers of steroid abuse. We need to find the happy medium where students are getting a quality education about this kind of thing.”

The bill was sent to the Governor’s Office, which has not commented on whether it will sign it.

http://www.app.com/story/news/2017/02/24/christie-asked-to-act-nj-high-school-steroid-testing/98316356/

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