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Del. to consider high school steroid testing

Task force to study issue; New Jersey already has program

Written by:

Mike Finney

 January 31, 2008
Athletes work out in the weight room at Caesar Rodney High School on Tuesday. Mike Schonewolf, the school's athletic director and football coach, said he has seen no signs that any of CR's athletes are using steroids. 
On Wednesday afternoon, Dover High School football players were hard at work in the school's weight room.

Phillip Kizer, a junior center for the Senators, believes some high school athletes don't just lift weights to get stronger and faster.

"There are some people that I can't tell whether they are using steroids or not," Kizer said. "Sometimes I think that secretly there are people taking steroids, maybe around 10 percent of the athletes.

"I know it isn't me, because I can't stand needles, and I don't like to take pills."

Delaware officials want to know if Kizer's take on steroid use among high school athletes is valid.

Last week, the House passed Resolution No. 44 to create a task force to study the cost and issues relating to steroid testing programs for Delaware high school athletes.

The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Greg Hastings, R-Millsboro, said he hopes the panel will present a report to the General Assembly by June 15.

"It was put on my radar that it was time in light of what's going on in the world of professional athletes and professional sports," Hastings said. "A lot of kids, not only teenagers, but even younger kids, look up to and admire our pro athletes.

"I feel like steroid testing is something we need to consider. Hopefully, [the task force's] findings won't be nearly as great as what we might expect."

Four states -- Florida, New Jersey, Texas and Illinois -- already have adopted some form of steroid testing for high school athletes. New Jersey was the first state to implement such testing.

Kevin Charles, executive director of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, believes the issue is worth studying.

"I think it is important to examine the issue to determine what the most appropriate path forward is for Delaware," Charles said. "To date, the National Federation of State High School Associations, DIAA's parent organization, has taken the position that education is the most cost effective and efficient means to approach the issue of performance-enhancing substance abuse at the interscholastic level. While DIAA supports that position, it is certainly appropriate to examine the issue from a local perspective."

Mike Schonewolf, athletic director and football coach at Caesar Rodney High in Camden, does not believe steroids testing is necessary for Delaware high school athletes.

"I don't think steroids are a problem for high school athletes in the state of Delaware," Schonewolf said. "I know that at Caesar Rodney just by giving it the good, old-fashioned eye check.

"I can't see any of our athletes that show signs of steroid use. Plus, testing is expensive, and I think our money would be better off directed at areas where we would see something in return."

That is just what Stan Burris, an assistant football and track and field coach at Dover, likes to hear.

"Around here, we preach about working out naturally," Burris said. "I definitely think that money could be better spent on something else.

"How about more money to get more teachers in class, so we don't have classrooms full of 25 students?"

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association pays $175 to test each athlete. The state, which instituted its program during the 2006-07 school year, randomly tests 500 of the 10,000 athletes who compete annually in state tournaments or playoffs.

Last year, one of the 500 athletes tested failed. That student received a mandatory one-year suspension from competition.

The NJSIAA and the state each contribute $50,000 to fund the $100,000 testing program.

According to the DIAA, 9,714 high school students competed in sports, including varsity and junior varsity, during the 2006-07 school year.

If it recommends testing, the Delaware task force will also recommend what percentage of athletes should be tested.

With the lure of college athletic scholarships, many student-athletes are susceptible to becoming steroid users, Hastings said.

A recent study of high school student-athletes by the Mayo Clinic found that 11 percent of male athletes and 2.5 percent of female athletes have tried anabolic steroids.

"Ever since I introduced the bill, I've had several parents and other people tell me that so-and-so got hooked on steroids when they were in high school," said Hastings, who declined to elaborate. "I'm cautiously optimistic. I hope it doesn't turn out to be a bad report, but I felt like we need to investigate it."

Hastings will sit on the task force along with Charles, two other House members, a representative of the state department of education, a sports medicine expert, a scientist with experience in the study of performance-enhancing drugs and five members of the coaching and/or education community.

Hastings said he hopes a testing program would involve all sports, not just a select few such as football and wrestling.

"I don't want to isolate it," he said. "... Our study will determine what path we will go down."


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