IHSA puts rumors of PED use to rest
The Illinois High School Association put an end to rumors Tuesday over whether Maine South High School's state championship football team had players test positive for performance-enhancing substances by declaring that none of the athletes tested in the fall produced a positive result.
The IHSA released the report three weeks early because of rumors about the Park Ridge, Ill. high school, which has won back-to-back Class 8A titles.
"Quite honestly, it just seemed like a common sense thing to do to put the rumors to rest," IHSA executive director Mary Hickman said. "First and foremost, it's unfair to Maine South.
"We didn't want anything to diminish from the wonderful season they had. It's a little disheartening to me that some folks would try to discredit Maine South. I don't know what they're trying to gain."
According to the IHSA, 141 athletes from girls swimming and diving, boys soccer and football were tested in the fall, and none of those tests came back positive. There were 10 Maine South football players among that group.
"I've never doubted them," Maine South coach David Inserra said. "My kids work out with me every day. We do it the right way. It's a matter of us putting in a lot of work.
"If anyone is jealous of that, so be it. It is sad we have to address these rumors."
Inserra was pleased the results were released, but it didn't cease his frustration.
"For all the hard work we do, to try and tear down 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds is ridiculous," Inserra said. "We all know who was tested. We were reading the names, and they were yelling out, 'I get tested.' That's how ridiculous any of our kids being on steroids is.
"[The players are] upset only because they know it's completely false. People can smear your name and smear the program's name. It's ridiculous we got to this point, and we have to address this situation that we're associated with steroids. That's the farthest from the truth."
This is the second school year that the IHSA has been conducting such tests, and it's still tinkering with its procedures. Hickman said the IHSA could be open to releasing the results earlier on a regular basis after what happened with Maine South.
Overall, Hickman has heard positive feedback over the testings.
"I think to our schools, our coaches and our athletes, it's been very well received," Hickman said. "From our point of view, it's a deterrent. We don't expect to catch a lot of kids on steroids or stimulants, but we're looking to give them a reason to say no. There is pressure on them to be bigger, stronger and faster."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.