Texas released preliminary results of high school steroid testing over the weekend. Headlines screamed that only 4 of 10,000 tests caught positive results. Depending on your view this was proof that high school dope testing wastes time and money, or that the testing scared many potential users to come clean.
Too bad Texas doesn't record weights of players. Likely all the data to evaluate the effectiveness of the program will not be collected. Tim Warsinkey of the Cleveland Plain Dealer carries a reasoned opinion today:
Nearly every time I venture into Ashtabula, I remember football player Benji Ramirez.
It was 20 years ago last October that Ramirez collapsed during practice and died at now-defunct Ashtabula High School. A story in Sports Illustrated that winter labeled Ramirez the first U.S. athlete to be killed by steroid abuse, a conclusion that was then and remains controversial. Some believe a heart condition and not steroids killed Ramirez.
Two decades later, the real issue is steroids remain powerful, affordable, available, dangerous and, in terms of getting caught at the high school level, virtually risk-free.
High school steroid use is a hot topic once again because Texas just released preliminary results of its random steroid testing program. The first 10,000 tests produced just four confirmed cases of steroid use, the Associated Press reported last weekend. Another 22 cases were deemed "positive" results because student-athletes broke testing rules.
Proponents of the $6 million, two-year program labeled the results a victory because they say
Most experts contend ab out 2.5 - 4% of high school males and about 1.0- 1.5% of high school females use steroids at least once in their career. Low, but important rate.
Of course there will be much denial and ignorance about the rates, and the effects. However the Plain Dealer wraps this up well:
Florida, New Jersey and Illinois conduct more limited steroid testing. The Ohio High School Athletic Association surveyed its members about testing in 2007, and the overwhelming response was that schools cannot afford it and don't believe it is a panacea. The OHSAA has emphasized educating athletes about the health risks associated with steroid use.
Educators would rather spend money combating bigger problems such as alcohol and drug abuse. I agree with that sentiment, but at the same time worry steroid abuse goes virtually unabated among high school athletes. Since Benji Ramirez's death, we might be better educated about steroids, but what have we learned?