Texas bill would create largest steroid testing program


AUSTIN, Texas -- With a publicity boost from Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst introduced a state Senate bill Wednesday to require random steroid testing for Texas public school athletes.

"Taking steroids doesn't make you tougher," Butkus said at a news conference to announce the bill. "It puts your life at risk."

Steroid testing in high schools has been a major issue for Dewhurst, a Republican who announced his plan in the 2006 campaign. The bill sponsored by Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, would require public school athletes to agree not to take steroids and to submit to testing if randomly selected.

Lawmakers hope to test as many as 22,000 students per year or more. Texas has about 733,000 students in approximately 1,300 high schools. Testing would be conducted at 30 percent, about 390, of the schools.

The program could start as early as next fall.

"This will send a message to stop illegal steroid use in our high schools," Dewhurst said.

Studies have shown as many 1 million high school students nationwide have taken steroids and as many as 40,000 in Texas, Dewhurst said. Steroids can lead to dramatic mood swings, heart disease and cancer, among other complications.

If approved, the bill leaves most of the testing details, such as which schools are selected, how and when samples are collected and punishment for positive results, to the University Interscholastic League, the state's governing body for high school sports.

Dewhurst, however, said punishments for positive tests should include a ban from playing in sports.

The program wouldn't be the first of its kind nationally, but it would be the largest. New Jersey started a limited program last fall that tests athletes and teams that advance to the postseason. Dewhurst said Texas should have a broader, longer testing program.