Saturday, January 10, 2009

Testing Students For Steroids

Is this program a waste of money, or is it deterring high school students from using steroids?

By the tens of thousands, Texas student-athletes have been pulled out of class to urinate in a cup for the nation's largest high school steroids testing program.

Boys and girls in all sports, from football to tennis to cross country, have been randomly selected.

The results so far have found little to confirm fears that steroid use is a rampant problem. When the first 10,000 tests found only four positive results, critics declared the two-year program a waste of time and money.

Now state lawmakers must decide whether to keep the $6 million program chugging along, scale it down or eliminate it. The 2009 legislative session starts Tuesday.

The Texas legislator who sponsored the testing bill in 2007 calls it an "incredible success."

The point of testing was to act as a deterrent against steroid use, not catch teens using drugs, said Rep. Dan Flynn, a Republican...

No other state screens student-athletes for steroids as comprehensively as Texas, but more limited testing elsewhere also hasn't found widespread steroid use in high schools.

In Florida, a one-year, $100,000 pilot program that tested 600 student-athletes was discontinued last year after only one student tested positive.

New Jersey began random steroid tests of student-athletes who qualify for team or individual state championships in 2006, but only one of 500 athletes screened in the program's first year tested positive.

When the facts contradict your expectations, believe the facts. But there's that deterrence argument.

I'm inclined to support ditching the program, but could be persuaded by strong arguments the other way.


Mrs. C said...

Oh, goody. Now let's have the state prevent colon cancer deaths in the over 50 crowd and see how the old folks like their Fourth Amendment rights trashed. Just sayin'.

Think how many lives we could save, though! :]

Darren said...

And let's not forget the post I did a few days ago on the Eagle Scouts who will help women by doing breast exams for cancer!

rightwingprof said...

The deterrence argument doesn't have much behind it without hard evidence that before the program, there was a lot of steroid abuse.

Darren said...

True enough.

a said...

$100,000 to test 600 students? It only costs $7 to find out if you're pregnant, why should it cost $167 to find out if a kid's using steroids?

Then there's all that tedious Constitutional stuff.

The number of positives and the cost per student suggest to my cynical self that this program has more to do with the availability of funds then to evidence of widespread misuse of steroids.

Donalbain said...

Maybe the underlying issue is the importance placed on school sports..

Darren said...

Quite possibly so, especially in Texas--just ask Ellen K.

neko said...

Maybe we need to invent an "at home" steroid kit. It appears to be cheaper to have them pee on a stick then pee in a cup.

Ellen K said...

And here I!
I teach in a district where we randomly test all students involved in UIL activities (athletics, band, choir-anything else that has competitions) or any student who wants to drive and park on school property. There's been surprisingly little outcry and there have been kids caught with a wide variety of chemicals in their systems. Note: this is not a test for steroids, just a general test for banned substances. Students get counseling the first time and the system ratchets up if they get caught again.

The steroid testing came about because of a confirmed case of steroids being sold to and used by high school athletes at a high profile high school. (Yes it was football, but it could have been any of a number of sports) And yes, there are those mindless parents who look the other way or actively encourage their kids to do whatever it takes to be on the varsity squad. In that particular case, a single mom found evidence her son was using them and turned him in, only to find out that many on the team were also using. In fact one father was quoted in the paper saying " I used them in college and nothing happened to me." (I guess he didn't ever hear about Lyle Alzado's cancer and where it came from....)

I have also had to teach students that I later found were on steroids. I suspected it at the time, but this was before the testing was in place. These four young men were totally out of control. The cystic acne, sudden exaggerated muscle changes,mood swings, threats, the rowdiness was far beyond normal teen behavior. And until the testing came about, parents and coaches were sometimes pretty dismissive of teachers concerns regarding steroid abuse. I found out later that two of these four were kicked off of junior college teams for failing steroid tests and that they were selling was confirmed by one of my students who laughed when he heard they had been caught.

Testing like this comes about because of people who are willing to cheat to circumvent the system. There are parents so driven to produce the next star athlete, they simply do not care if it is illegal, immoral or dangerous. I would agree the costs may outweigh the results, but if the threat of having a school sanctioned keeps some dim bulb from getting a student to use steroids, maybe it's worth it.

DADvocate said...

Politicians become politicians because they want power. Forcing people to do something is a display of power. As rightwingproj said the deterrence argument is crap. Especially in this case as they don't have hard figures on prior steroid use.

Reminds me of the old joke:
Why are you doing that dance?
To keep away the tigers.
But there aren't any tigers in America.
See! It's working! Isn't it?