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Does new Texas data really indicate prep steroid use is declining?

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

While the relatively strict -- if randomly assigned -- steroids testing program implemented in the state of Texas may soon be relegated to the scrap heap of pre-cutback school sports history, one of the final batches of data the program has served up paints an interesting new portrait of high school athletes in one of the country's most participatory states. Most importantly, the University Interscholastic League testing results may also indicate either that concern over steroid use among high school students may have been overblown or preventative measures that have been taken in recent years are having a significant effect.

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Anabolic steroids

Anabolic steroids

The long and short of the testing data can be found in this Dallas Morning News blog post, but the most salient point is this:

• Among 2,083 Texas student athletes who were tested for anabolic steroids between September and December 2010, only two tests were deemed positive … and one of those positive results was a "protocol positive", after a student-athlete failed to report for testing.

Those two positives represent an overall positive testing result of just 0.00096 percent, a completely statistically insignificant amount. In any general survey or analysis, that number would be rounded down to a zero percent testing result, which obviously would indicate that Texas athletes don't present any problems related to steroid use whatsoever.

However, the test results could also be considered statistically insignificant based on the minuscule sample size being tested … and the fact that those tests were carried out across all sports, not just those deemed more likely to encourage steroid use by internal competition or peer pressure.

As reported in the results published by the Morning News, 1,333 male athletes were tested in 10 different sports. While there is no further breakdown of how many athletes were tested in each sport, a mean average would dictate that approximately 130 football players were tested, and so on. Additionally, those 1,333 boys -- as well as the 750 girls who presented samples for the test -- were drawn from just 135 total schools.

While the actual schools tested have not been released, 135 schools represent a tiny portion of Texas' overall secondary school system. While it's possible that the 135 which were selected represented an ideal distribution of different demographic makeups, it's also possible that they included more small, rural schools than those from urban or particularly wealthy districts, where steroid distribution might be more likely.

Does the recent steroid testing data mean that steroid use in Texas is on the decline? In all likelihood, it probably does, at least to some small degree. Yet, as is often the case with UIL matters, we may never know the true degree to which performance enhancing drug use is declining because of ancillary data which are likely to never be disclosed (in this case, possibly in all legal correctness as a way to protect students' privacy).

Given the impending cancellation or further reduction of the steroid testing plan, that makes the data which has been provided and the general direction of steroid use in the state all the more confusing.

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