Illinois To Keep Testing High School Athletes for Steroids

Illinois will remain one of three states to test student-athletes for performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids. On Monday, the Illinois High School Association's Board of Directors voted to continue the testing program, which began with the 2008-09 school year - joining Florida, Texas and New Jersey. Florida discontinued its efforts in 2009.

The IHSA's testing program changed slightly after its inaugural year, when a new law was enacted for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years requiring certain testing benchmarks to be met annually, as well as requiring an educational component to be completed by all member school coaches. "The state law mandating the testing has sunset," says Marty Hickman, IHSA's executive director. "Regardless, the IHSA funded the program during its first year and was prepared to do so again. Our board believes in this program and made it clear that they want it to continue. I commend them for that decision."

During the 2010-11 school year, the IHSA tested 747 student-athletes, resulting in four positive tests. Two of the four were cleared by a medical review officer - marking the first two punishable offenses in the program's history. Over the course of its three-year history, 1,758 tests have been conducted by the IHSA's Performance-Enhancing Drug Testing Program.

"Some people will look at the number of positive test results and conclude that the testing is not working," Hickman adds. "But it is important to maintain perspective. The scope of our testing was never going to be large enough to catch every student who may be using performance-enhancing drugs. The program was put into place to be a deterrent to help prevent students from using these harmful drugs, and we believe it is successfully serving that purpose."

The State of New Jersey and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association have spent $400,000 to test approximately 2,000 student-athletes, according to The Press of Atlantic City - with only one positive test result. The NJSIAA randomly tests 500 athletes each year, but that group comes only from students who participate in state tournament competition.

Criticism of the testing program in Texas has been mounting after it was spared the budget axe in May. According to the Associated Press, more than 50,000 tests yielded fewer than 30 confirmed findings of steroid use since 2008. The state will now focus its testing efforts on select sports, including football, baseball and track. Gov. David Dewhurst, according to his spokesman Mike Walz, "believes the program is important and that it saves lives."

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