July 11, 2014
Steroids in high schools / Continue testing (Opinion)
Nine years after putting New Jersey in the forefront of protecting high school athletes from the dangers of steroids by mandating testing through an executive order, Richard Codey wants to make the program permanent.
The state senator, who was acting governor back in 2005, is sponsoring a bill that would mandate random testing and would require coaches, schools and the state to develop educational programs.
The legislation, with some possible adjustments, deserves support.
Critics question how effective the testing really is. Few other states have followed New Jersey’s lead, and the steroid problem among student athletes is not making the headlines it did a decade ago.
So why is Codey’s bill important?
Because protecting young people from the lure of a quick way to athletic success that leads to potentially life-threatening health problems is the right thing to do.
The Centers for Disease Control warns that steroid use can result in feelings of hostility, violent behavior and abnormal development in both boys and girls. Long-term damage to the heart, liver and kidneys can also result.
Codey’s bill would include this scientific evidence, which has grown over the years, in education programs for students participating in sports, dance or cheerleading. It also requires the N.J. State Interscholastic Athletic Association to develop a program on steroid and performance-enhancing supplement prevention for all public and nonpublic high school coaches and athletic directors. Information and materials about preventing abuse would be available on the state Department of Education’s website.
As for testing, the bill requires the NJSIAA and Education Department to develop and implement by the 2014-15 school year a random-testing program for student athletes who qualify for championship tournaments.
That is similar to what the state has done for the past nine years, paid for by $50,000 from the state and the same amount from the NJSIAA.
Some rightly point out that athletes wanting to use steroids – knowing they will not be tested until their team reaches the playoffs – can easily avoid a positive test.
Dropping the playoff portion and spreading the same number of tests throughout the season would make the testing more random and therefore more of a deterrent. That is a change that should be considered as lawmakers work out the details of this bill.
The number of students who have actually tested positive for steroids over the past nine years has been minimal. Only one athlete was caught in 2012-13.
But maybe that means the program is working. Besides, catching cheaters is not the only goal here.
It’s also important to send a message about the dangers of steroids. It’s a message that needs to be constantly repeated. Codey’s legislation makes sure that it will be. http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/opinion/editorials/steroids-in-high-schools-continue-testing/article_605bc801-b53c-5ffc-ba04-59dea29b6c9c.html