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State considers steroid tests for student-athletes

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Updated: 8/15/2013 12:11 am
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The goal of any athlete is to win, but the Florida High School Athletic Association says the pressure to use performance-enhancing drugs is growing.

Executive Director Dr. Roger Dearing has asked the association's Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to review existing standards to determine if they should be strenghened to stop the spread of PED's in high school sports.

"The FHSAA's overriding priority is the safety, well-being and constructive development of young student-athletes, whose bodies and character are still forming. Performance-enhancing drugs undermine every aspect of this goal, and so it is imperative that our student-athletes adhere to a zero tolerance policy toward these inherently unfair and dangerous substances," Dearing said. "Here is the bottom line for me: As executive director of FHSAA, I believe we must draw a line in the sand against performing-enhancing drugs. School districts simply cannot tolerate coaches who encourage or look the other way when athletes use PEDs. Therefore, these coaches cannot be allowed to keep their jobs or have anything to do with young athletes. This is about more than safeguarding fair play - it's about saving lives."

Dr. Daniel Kantor, vice president of the Duval County Medical Society, says the effects of PEDs could be devastating on young minds and growing bodies.

"They can cause problems with bones, problems with growing, even concussions can happen more if someone has been taking performance-enhancing drugs."

Six years ago, the state provided a grant to the FHSAA to randomly test just over 600 of Florida's student athletes for PEDs. The results found only one student tested positive, and soon the funding stopped.

"The recession happened and the effort fell lower on the budget, but since then more substances have been identified and banned," says Kantor. "That's why the FHSAA thinks it's time to review their standards to determine if more needs to be done. This issue is we don't know how rampant this problem is currently, and we need more information to determine if more testing is needed in the future."

Action News did some digging and found most local school districts have a policies against the use of performance enhancing drugs in their student codes of conduct.

Clay County requires all students and parents to sign a Code of Conduct which includes policies against drugs and other substance abuse.

We found St. Johns County goes one step further.

Tim Forson, Deputy Superintendent of Operations for the St. Johns County School District, says student athletes are held to a higher standard. Prior to each season they and their parents, are also required to the Victory with Honor pledge. It's an extension of the Character Counts program, that was designed to help athletes become role models for each other.

Recent abuses of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports is bringing the program new focus in the upcoming school year. Forson hopes to use the field as an opportunity to talk to students about the challeges and pressures they face.

"There are great examples of good character out there, and there are also non-examples, and it's easy sometimes for kids to take competition jut a step too far. Our challenge is that a lot of times you aren't going to see [those pressures]. Students aren't going to share that, so you have to take that extra step to build that relationship so that you know."

Forson and other coaches Action News spoke to welcome any new information that the FHSAA can provide.

"We're always seeking the latest and greatest as far as information is concerned, to make sure we're in the know and to understand those challenges that kids are facing every single day."

But until more is known, none would commit to the idea of testing each of Florida's 283,000 high school athletes each year for performance-enhancing drugs. It's a process that Kantor says could eventually be expensive for taxpayers.

"To test a person each time it's about $100 to $150, and to do that a few times each year it becomes a big bill. The real question becomes, who's going to foot that bill? The FHSAA will do their review on standards and provide suggestions, but we're going to have to decide as a society if this is something we want to fund or not."

The FHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee will meet Aug. 27, to begin researching and reviewing current policies and procedures to see if they need to be adjusted. Dr. Kantor plans to attend those meetings.
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