The Sunset Advisory Commission took its final step Wednesday to end statewide steroids testing for Texas high school student-athletes.
In a vote that required no discussion or debate, the commission approved a series of wide-ranging recommendations to the state’s University Interscholastic League.
Among those included the dissolution of an anabolic steroids testing program for high school students who compete in UIL athletic events.
While the final fate of steroids testing will wait until 2015 — as a statutory item, it will require passage by the next Legislature and signature by the governor — it was a significant step to end the seven-year program.
The UIL would not comment on the abolishment of the program Wednesday, since recommendations that will require passage are a matter of public policy, said UIL deputy director Jamey Harrison. The Legislature mandated the creation of the league’s Anabolic Steroid Testing program by the passage of Senate Bill 8 in 2007.
“We serve as an information resource to the state legislature, and on matters related to public policy, serve at their will,” Harrison said.
Critics of the state’s steroids testing have long pointed to the lack of positive test results to question the program’s necessity. Nearly $10 million has been appropriated from the Legislature for the steroid tests, although funding has been cut each biennium since the program’s inception in spring 2008, from a high of $3 million in 2008 to $500,000 for ’13-14.
Of the 65,525 tests administered over its history, 197 students either generated a positive test result or committed a “protocol violation” — a failure to produce a specimen. On Tuesday, the UIL released its report for the 2013-14 school year, which found no positive results from 2,633 tests administered at 172 schools.
For steroids awareness advocate Don Hooton, the founder of the Plano-based Taylor Hooton Foundation, the lack of positive test results shouldn’t be seen as proof of a steroid-free state, but an indication of a “broken system.”
The existing test looked for a small number of available anabolic steroids and didn’t test for human growth hormone, Hooton said. He pointed to a recent national study conducted by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, which showed a rise in both steroid use and HGH among teens from 2009 to 2013. According to the study, steroid use for teens in high school has climbed from 5 to 7 percent, while HGH use has grown from 5 to 11 percent.
Moreover, Hooton added, the state’s test wasn’t originally intended to be a full measure of the state’s steroids usage but to serve as a deterrent.
“The saddest thing about this whole program is that we have a public here in the state of Texas that has now been lulled to sleep,” Hooton said.