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DECEMBER 7, 2007

Steroid Drug Testing Myths

Texas putting money into wrong priority with steroid drug testing

By my estimation, people fall into one of two categories, which is displayed by their response to learning that there is no Santa Clause:

1.    The type that says “yeah, I suspected that…”
2.    The type who says “yeah, but at least we still have the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy…”

(*Of course, there is a third type, who is reading this now, and saying “What do you mean there’s no Santa?”)

The first type will not be surprised by what I’m about to say, while the second will likely not appreciate exactly what I’m saying.

Yesterday, I sent an e-mail to the person in charge of implementing a steroid testing program here in Texas (where I live), with the ultimate goal of keeping student athletes from using performance enhancing drugs. In that e-mail (which was yesterday’s “Injected” editorial), I offered both my assistance as well as the assistance of and our extensive knowledge and resources to assist this program.

What I received in response to that e-mail was a brief reply saying that my comments were appreciated. When I send a reply to someone – and that’s what it says – typically I’m saying thanks but no thanks. I knew (for the most part) that my offer would be declined…

I also know that there is no Santa Clause, although I am undecided as to whether there is in fact a “Fred Clause” and perhaps a Clause which could be invoked to make Tim Allen be Santa. All of that is up in the air by my estimation.

What is not up in the air is the idea that could help keep high-school athletes from using steroids through education, lectures, and involvement with a comprehensive program. What is also not up in the air is the fact that as a deterrent, testing and penalties/punishments simply do not work as well as educational programs.

However, although I believe that the statistics support education in lieu of testing/punishment, I also believe that convincing people of this is going to be an uphill battle, because* for some reason as a society we’re obsessed with catching “cheaters” instead of preventing it. The results from declining steroid use (due to education) aren’t very sexy. They amount to (at best) a pie chart (or perhaps a bar graph) showing a decline in use. Perhaps with multi-colored effects and graphics.

But when we catch an athlete using steroids, we get months (perhaps years) of headlines, television shows, and plenty of material for opening monologue jokes from late night television show hosts. Which reminds me, I wonder if Barry Bonds is making sure his legal “team” has a good designated hitter. Zing!

But the real problem with testing, at the high-school level, is two-fold.

The first issue is that it doesn’t address keeping kids from using anabolic steroids – it catches them after they’ve done it …it doesn’t serve to actually deter it. The second issue* is that the money involved – in this case $3 million dollars – could likely be put towards better uses within the Texas state school system…like…perhaps towards something like “education” or whatever.

But I feel like this is a closed issue here in Texas and that the $ 3 million dollars will be going towards a testing program, and I have a feeling that I’ll be seeing Santa Clause before I see that money going towards making a difference in stopping steroid use instead of just catching it.

*(Warning: snarky commentary on society from a totally unqualified source coming up)



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