NJ Tests for Steroids

By Staff

Coaching Management, 14.7, September 2006, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1407/bbnjsteroids.htm

As steroid use continues to be a hot button in baseball, New Jersey has become the first state to take the plunge into a full-fledged drug-testing program for high school athletes, following an executive mandate from former Acting Governor Richard Codey. In 2006-07, random steroid testing will begin for athletes in all championship sports.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) will carry out the testing plan, randomly testing about five percent of student-athletes whose teams qualify for postseason play in 2006-07. Postseason play in the state’s 31 championship sports involves roughly 10,000 athletes, so about 500 students will be tested in the program’s first year.

Codey created a task force in July 2005 to study the issue of steroid use in young athletes. The task force’s 18 members, which included high school administrators, professors of sports psychology and orthopedic surgery, and coaches, recommended a series of steps, including random testing, to address what it perceived as a serious problem.

“We looked at the statistics first,” says Bob Baly, Assistant Director of the NJSIAA and a member of the task force. “About three percent of high school seniors nationwide admit to having used steroids, and there’s evidence that the real number is closer to five or six percent. We have 240,000 athletes in New Jersey, so it’s not hard to do the math.”

The task force also noted that many student-athletes say steroids are very easy to come by. “They told us all you have to do is key in the right words on the Internet or know the right people around school,” Baly says.

The tests will look for around 80 substances in all, ranging from amphetamines to steroids. In accordance with the policy, any time an athlete tests positive he or she will immediately be declared ineligible for a period of 365 days.

The governor’s office gave the NJSIAA a $50,000 grant to pay for the first year of testing, but it’s yet to be decided how subsequent years will be paid for. A private agency will carry out the tests, and coaches at the targeted schools will not have any added responsibilities.

While the mandatory testing plan has drawn the most attention, it isn’t the only way New Jersey is addressing performance-enhancing substance use by high school athletes. Plans are in place for a steroid education program directed at the state’s elementary and middle schoolers, as well as ramped up educational efforts for coaches, athletic trainers, and school nurses. “Our athletic departments will continue to work with families, coaches, and student-athletes to educate them about the dangers of steroids,” Baly says.