Frank Uryasz began working in the steroid testing business more than 20 years ago when the NCAA asked him to implement a national drug testing program. The Nebraska grad left the NCAA in 1999 and started the National Center for Drug Free Sport, which administers drug-testing programs for the NCAA, minor league baseball, New Jersey high schools and, this fall, the NBA.
The Kansas City-based organization also will facilitate Florida's pilot steroid testing program. House Bill 461 calls for 1 percent of athletes in football, baseball and weightlifting to be randomly tested. Times staff writer Joe Smith spoke with Uryasz about Florida's program and his insights on steroid use at the high school level.
What do you think of Florida's pilot steroids testing program?
I think it's an excellent place to start. The strength of Florida's program is that they'd like to do testing pretty much throughout the scholastic year. They want to do collection right there on campus, so the athlete has little to no notice. I believe it will be an effective deterrent.
The New Jersey high school steroids program, which your organization worked on, reportedly revealed zero positive tests. Was it a deterrent or was there simply not a steroids problem?
I'm a strong believer you don't measure deterrent based on percent positive, especially not from percent positive from an announced and expected drug testing. The only way to truly measure deterrence is to get someone to measure the extent of use before and measure extent of use after to see if it's increased.
Is steroids use in high school a growing problem?
The data doesn't show that. ...I rely more on what I hear. When you put your ear to ground and listen to coaches and athletes, they're very concerned about it. We should take their concerns and look at prevention.
What percent of positive tests do you expect high school steroid testing programs to reveal?
My best guess is 1 percent, based on my experience at the college level and research from other drug testing programs we've done. So if Florida does 600 tests, they should expect between 6-12 positives.
You've spoken often about the impact of supplement use, or precursors to steroids. What of those do you worry about most?
When I worry about supplements, I worry about stimulants. The likelihood of finding steroids in supplements you buy at stores in the mall is low. But the likelihood it contains stimulants are very high. The use of stimulants combined with exercise, heat and humidity is a dangerous combination. Especially in the fall, in a state like Florida, if you've got a kid on a dietary supplement containing stimulants, whether it's a huge amount of caffeine or whatever, that's a very dangerous situation, which could lead to heat illness, heat stroke and possible sudden death.
What is the future of steroids testing at the high school level?
What we'll see is a few states implementing testing programs and other states will sit back and see how it goes. If there's success in those testing programs, you'll see more testing throughout the country. I think it's unfortunate the use of steroids has moved down to the high school level. The NCAA started testing for steroids 22 years ago. ...It's probably time high schools did, too.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8129.