Differing Views on Value of High School Tests

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - As dozens of marquee athletes were involved in doping scandals over the past decade, concern about the use of performance-enhancing drugs reached the parents and coaches of high school athletes. Drug Free Sport, a company providing drug-testing services for sports leagues and teams, was in position to expand its business.

Gwen and Don Hooton’s son Taylor committed suicide in 2003. Don Hooton now argues against high school drug testing.

At least three state high school associations - in Texas, Illinois and New Jersey - put in programs to test student-athletes. All three programs were operated by Drug Free Sport. The contracts were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

One case that triggered alarm involved Taylor Hooton, 17, of Plano, Tex., whose 2003 suicide widened concerns about high school students' use of performance-enhancing drugs. Hooton's father, Don, was among those who lobbied lawmakers for drug-testing programs in high schools.

But a decade later, Don Hooton and others have reversed course, arguing that the programs may provide little benefit to students and society.

"We have a real problem here," Hooton said of steroid use among high school students. "But we're not getting at it."

In 1995, the United States Supreme Court ruled that drug testing for high school athletes was constitutional, and some districts expanded their policies to include middle schools. Proponents of testing at the high school level say that it offers students a way to say no to drugs and that it serves as a deterrent.

But others question the effectiveness of the programs.

In 2007, Dr. Linn Goldberg, head of the division of health promotion and sports medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, published the results of a study of athletes at five high schools that had drug-testing programs and six schools that had deferred enacting a drug-testing policy. Goldberg found that athletes from the two groups did not differ in their alcohol or drug consumption.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, the first high school association in the country to start drug testing, is in its seventh year of testing. It will test 500 student-athletes this year during its championship events, roughly the same number as last year, at a cost of about $100,000. The rate of positive tests has never exceeded 1 percent.

"I think the process works," said Steven Timko, the executive director of the association. "We're proud of the fact we're doing this. We are trying to look out for the health and safety of our student-athletes. I think we're trying to send the right message."

In the 2007-8 school year, the University Interscholastic League, in Texas, began one of the largest high school drug testing programs in the country, conducting 10,117 tests that yielded two positives and four unresolved cases that year. But under budgetary pressures, the program has shrunk to about a third of its original size, with 3,311 tests conducted in the 2011-12 school year. Of those, there were nine positives.

Drug Free Sport won a competitive bid for the Texas contract, reportedly worth more than $1 million, but the cost of the program has decreased as fewer student-athletes have been tested, said Chris Schmidt, a spokesman for the league.

In 2007, the Florida High School Athletic Association said it would begin testing high school athletes. For $100,000, the association began by testing 600 students, but it discontinued the program because of a lack of financing after a year.

The Illinois High School Association began its program in the 2008-9 year. Each year, the program costs about $100,000 and tests about 650 students, said Kurt Gibson, associate executive director of the association. The association had no positive test results, Gibson said.

"We continue to view that our program is accomplishing what it set out to do," Gibson said. "It's another tool in the student's toolbox to say no to these substances. Our program serves more as a deterrent rather than being designed to punish students."

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/sports/drug-tests-for-high-school-athletes-fuel-debate.html?ref=marypilon&_r=0

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One Response to Differing Views on Value of High School Tests

  1. Kristi Hugstad says:

    why would anyone argue against drug testing for steroids in high school? It’s an epedemic, median age to start using is 15! My husband committed suicide as a result of years of steroid use. There are long term conseqences… He ran in front of a train. HELLO!!!

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