The Biogenesis scandal that rocked Major League Baseball has reminded high school officials that steroids haven’t disappeared from the state’s locker rooms.
That’s why the Florida High School Athletic Association is reviewing its policies against performance-enhancing drugs, executive director Roger Dearing announced Tuesday morning.
“We believe we must draw a line in the stand against performance-enhancing drugs,” Dearing said in a conference call with reporters.
The announcement came after the Miami Herald reported that two current high school baseball players joined Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and others as alleged clients of Biogenesis, the south Florida anti-aging clinic.
The FHSAA’s goals are to coax school districts to adopt their own zero-tolerance policies against PEDs, educate players and their parents about dangerous side-effects and encourage districts to explore creative ways to finance drug tests.
“We can’t ignore the issue out there,” Dearing said. “There have been and will continue to be those individuals who want to provide illegal drugs to our students…”
Dearing said the FHSAA has focused recent attention on reducing heat stroke and concussions and hasn’t always been “as vigilant as we should have been” in policing the elephant in some high school weight rooms.
In 2007-08, the FHSAA used a $100,000 grant from the state for random drug tests of 600 athletes at 53 schools – including nine in Tampa Bay. Only one player tested positive for steroids, and the program wasn’t renewed.
The FHSAA doesn’t have the authority to institute random drug tests, and testing every high school athlete in the state could cost a whopping $42 million. Instead, Dearing is asking schools and districts to review their drug policies. Polk County randomly drug tests its student-athletes, and other districts have asked community donors to help fund the expensive tests.
“It’s not a finger-pointing exercise,” said Sen. Bill Montford, who also serves as the CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. “It is truly an acknowledgement that we have a problem, and we also have a responsibility to address this issue, and we have to address it with vigor.”
Dearing is asking the FHSAA’s sports medicine advisory committee to conduct a full review of the organization’s steroid policy – a two-sentence policy under unsportsmanlike conduct. That review could begin later this month.
Dearing stressed that testing is expensive and might not be feasible for every district, so schools need to educate parents and student-athletes on the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs, including liver damage.
“We know it’s not just limited to professional athletes,” Dearing said. “This has to raise a level of alarm, concern and vigilance with our parents, our student-athletes.”