Steroid Testing Student Athletes

The Illinois High School Association approved a program yesterday that will begin random steroid testing of student athletes this fall -- but only for those involved in post-season games. So, if you're on steroids, but your team doesn't make it past the regular season, they'll never find out what you're doing. Or you can use them during the regular season, then stop when you make the playoffs. Oooh, good plan.

State senator Matt Bartle had proposed legislation that would require all school districts to come up with testing programs for performance-enhancing drugs, but he changed that this afternoon to match Illinois' rule regarding post-season play.

Today I talked with Bryan Burwell of the Post-Dispatch about whether these programs are worth it. At $200 per test, if you check 200 kids, that's $40,000, about one teacher's salary. Which is more important?

I also question the role of parents in the use of steroids by their kids. Someone's paying for these expensive drugs, and it's not some high school football player with a parttime job at Hardee's. It's mom or dad opening the checkbook to help their son or daughter get bulked up. Besides, there's no effective test for human growth hormone, which is the new choice in performance-enhancers. The cheaters will always find a way to cheat.

But how many student athletes are using steroids? According to a study of 15,000 kids by the University of Michigan, only about 2% of high-schoolers say they've used steroids. So we're talking about a very small problem and an ineffective way of dealing with it.

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