Texas saves steroid testing program … at limited rate

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

After months of rumors that Texas was on the verge of eliminating all steroid testing for high school sports, the state's prep testing program has been spared, even if its new incarnation will bear only slight resemblance to the systemic tests which have recently been used on athletes in scholastic sports in the Lone Star State.

Anabolic steroids
Anabolic steroids

According to the Associated Press, Texas lawmakers will pledge some $1.5 million to fund a steroid testing initiative over the next two years, with the tests on athletes to be carried out only for those in sports where steroid use is deemed a more significant risk, with football, baseball, track and field and girls soccer most likely to receive the brunt of testers' attention.

While the application of the Texas steroids testing program has been criticized by some, it's breadth remains unparalleled in scholastic sports. The state's governing body for public school athletics -- the University Interscholastic League -- made all 700,000 of its affiliated athletes eligible to be randomly administered urine tests to check for steroids or other banned substances. Such widespread tests carried with them a genuine sense of deterrent for high school athletes, but also an extreme price tag: The existing steroid testing initiative has cost Texas approximately $6 million per year.

That universal approach meant that freshman field hockey players were just as likely to be pulled out of class to provide a urine sample as senior tight ends on a school's football team.

The lack of correlation in the number of athletes in an individual sport administered tests to the likelihood that those in that particular sport might take illicit drugs has been a cause of some consternation in Texas, and lawmakers now appear set to adjust testing standards to make the new, streamlined program address those issues.

According to two state Republican lawmakers who helped create the program, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst is supporting the state's new focused testing plan, as is Don Hooton, the founder of the Taylor Hooton Foundation which has advocated for an end to teen steroid use.

Whether the new program is deemed more effective in terms of its deterrent effect or its ability to catch prep steroid users remains to be seen. What is certain is that Texas will still be taking a stand and helping pioneer how states handle their own scholastic sports health issues heading forward, something which seemed far from certain as recently as a month earlier.

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