Jan 29, 2015
New Jersey to Test High School Athletes for Steroids

They aren’t the first state to consider it, but they are the first state to take the plunge. Next year, New Jersey will begin random steroid testing for high school athletes in all championship sports, following an executive mandate by Acting Governor Richard Codey.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) will oversee the testing, randomly selecting five percent of student-athletes whose teams qualify for postseason play. The governor’s office gave the NJSIAA a $50,000 grant to pay for the first year of testing, although there is no indication yet of how it will be paid for in subsequent years.

A basketball fanatic and AAU coach, Codey created a task force in July 2005 to study the issue of steroid use in young athletes, which ultimately recommended the testing, along with ramping up educational prevention efforts. “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. A significant number of kids are taking a substance that is very dangerous.”

In addition, interviews with student-athletes convinced the group that 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.

A private agency will carry out the testing, and athletic trainers at schools targeted for testing will not have any added responsibilities. “Our athletic trainers have done a very good job of becoming educated on the program, and we’re looking into ways to increase their education in this area,” Baly says.

New Jersey is not the only state to look into the issue of steroids in high school sports. Florida’s legislature recently considered a bill that would require the state association to develop a testing program for one sport, and a Michigan legislator introduced a bill last spring that would mandate testing of athletes at state competitions. In 2005, the governor of New Mexico urged his state’s legislature to institute random drug testing for high school athletes, and even pledged $330,000 to finance a program.

The full report of the New Jersey Governor’s Task Force on Steroid Use and Prevention can be seen at: www.nj.gov/steroids/finalreport.

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