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The good and bad of drug tests

A simple 6-3 vote could affect high school sports across the nation in a most profound way. Then again, it could be totally insignificant.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that high school athletes may be, indeed should be, subjected to random drug testing without probable cause.

The conservative-slanted court said that public school athletes surrender certain privacy rights because of their junior role model status. The court stressed that the obtrusiveness of a urine test was minor and was justified by the growing threat of drug use among athletes.

"I don't see it as a big deal," said Mike Brunet, a standout pitcher at Land O'Lakes High who will move on to Pasco-Hernando Community College this fall. "It may not completely eliminate drug use at the high school level, but it will do something to contain it."

The message there is that it takes little effort and even less time to pee in a bottle. There really is no great indignation, no significant violation of one's space. If you're clean, you're clean. Right? So what's the big deal?

Those in opposition use these arguments:

A random drug test without probable cause is a violation of one's rights. It shouts loudly that Big Brother is not only watching you, but now he's testing you. It says that the federal government is moving in a frightening direction, toward intruding on the privacy of citizens based on the paranoia of concerned groups. You know, like searching your house without a warrant.

Then there is the question of cost. Land O'Lakes baseball coach Calvin Baisley put it best when he said, "When you start factoring in the cost, it is not very realistic." How many high schools can account for an undetermined number of $500 drug tests in their yearly budget? And those that can't afford it, will they be suspected of fielding teams high on cocaine?

Then there is the question of who will be tested? Pasco football coach Perry Brown asks: "Will they do it alphabetically? Will they pick some kids and not others?"

There is a danger here. Just how random will these drug tests be? Who is more likely to be tested, an affluent tennis player at Saddlebrook or an everyday running back at Pasco High? Your call.

Finally, why athletes? Is the Supreme Court guilty of stereotyping the jock, based on the frailties of the likes of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry? Surely they know that more non-athletes do drugs than athletes. And if it is a question of being role models, shouldn't the members of the Supreme Court also be subjected to random drug testing? That was voted dowm 9-0, we presume.

However, those in favor offer this:

In order to deal with the maladies of modern time, we must be prepared to restructure our laws. Desperate measures for desperate men. So prevalent is drug use among the young that great efforts must be made even if it means stepping on a few sensitive toes.

We somehow have survived the horrific procedure of going through metal detectors at airports and other public venues.

We wholeheartedly agree that pilots, air traffic controllers, school bus drivers and cruise ship navigators must remain drug free. We have no problem with drug testing in their ranks. We would be incensed if our heart surgeons and emergency room attendants were not held accountable, in a similar random manner, for staying clean.

If those are the investments willing to be paid in society, couldn't those same investments be made with our youth? And, as is the case with all investments, something must be given up today to reap benefits tomorrow.

The common ground will fall somewhere between. Some schools will test frequently, others seldomly. From this view, that's the biggest problem. It's all or nothing. Either test all students or test none. Anything else would be discriminatory. That's a right no one should have to give up.

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