New Jersey offers early look at steroid testing in high schools
They were tired and hungry and had just lost in the state semifinals. Then 12 backups on the Union High School football team were dispatched to the locker room to submit urine samples and be part of history last fall.This is a snippet of life in New Jersey, which became the first state to implement mandatory steroid testing for high school athletes. It was groundbreaking, requiring 500 high school athletes to submit to steroid testing during the school year. It is a syringe in a haystack compared with what Texas is about to undertake. The Texas Legislature approved a bill this week for mandatory random testing, which could affect as many as 25,000 high school athletes in the coming school year. If Gov. Rick Perry approves, it would be the largest high school steroid testing plan in the country.
In Texas, where more than 700,000 students compete, the state will spend $3 million a year for testing. The work has just begun, and the state has yet to complete many of the details, such as who will conduct the tests, where they will be sent and how the athletes will be picked. Mark Cousins, athletic coordinator for the Texas University Interscholastic League, said roughly 120 of the state's 1,300 schools currently conduct drug testing."It's going to be an interesting couple of months, let's put it that way," Cousins said. "A tremendous amount of work in a short amount of time."
In New Jersey, where about 280,000 students compete, the state spent $100,000 in its first year and the tests were conducted only during state tournaments and playoffs.
The first batch included 150 random names in the fall season, and all those tests came back clean. Bob Baly, an assistant director with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, declined to give the results of the winter and spring tests because they are still pending."Some people say we should do more; some say we should do less," Baly said. "There are critics on both sides.
A handful of coaches and school officials from New Jersey said they weren't worried about their athletes testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. They know their kids and know the symptoms.
"Texas is another case," Parsons said. "It's a big-business football state. People travel 300, 400 miles to see a game. It's Friday night lights, and coaching is a profession out there, a full-time job."
Elizabeth Merrill writes for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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