Steroid testing clears next hurdle
Thursday, May 4, 2006
New Jersey's high school
athletes would be benched unless they and their parents
agree before the season to be tested for
performance-enhancing drugs under a proposal introduced
policy, developed by the New Jersey State Interscholastic
Athletic Association, in response to a December order from
then-Gov. Richard J. Codey, would go into effect for the
Under the policy -- which
got unanimous preliminary approval from NJSIAA's executive
committee -- athletes and their parents would be required
to sign consent forms before their seasons, agreeing to
random testing for steroids and numerous other
performance-enhancing drugs. Those who don't sign the form
would be ineligible to play.
The policy will go into
effect for the fall season if the executive committee
approves it a second time at its next meeting, June 7.
"New Jersey is going to be
the first state in the union to do random testing for
steroids," said Bob Baly, an assistant director of the
NJSIAA. "We are happy this is in place."
Under the policy, students
who qualify for individual state tournaments or as a
member of a state tournament team could be tested randomly
for steroids and an extensive list of other substances
once a tournament begins. Any athlete who tests positive
or refuses to take the test would not be able to
participate in sports for one year from the date of the
School drug tests of any
kind have consistently met with resistance, particularly
from parents who argue that they violate students' civil
Charles Earling, the
principal of Collingswood High School and a member of a
task force appointed by Codey to consider steroid testing
in schools, said in December that only 20 school districts
in New Jersey currently test for illegal drugs, much less
"Anybody can challenge
anything," said Steve Goodell, an attorney for the NJSIAA
who helped draft the new policy. "But there is no
constitutional right to participate in high school
"We haven't advertised this
to parents," Baly said. "In preliminary discussions,
people have seemed positive about it. Do I expect
opposition? No, I don't."
On its surface, the policy
appears to target only those athletes who are successful
as individuals or members of successful teams, while
allowing athletes on less successful teams to avoid the
testing. But Baly said it is still more than is being done
"Don't you have that right
now," he asked when the subject of non-qualifiers getting
a pass on the testing came up. "Besides, I don't think
kids think like that. I know that when I was coaching, the
idea at the beginning of every season was that we were
going to get to the state championship."
Codey, in his executive
order, promised $50,000 per year in state funds to help
pay for the testing. Baly said the NJSIAA has set aside
another $50,000 in next year's budget for testing.
Officials had discussed getting corporate sponsors to pick
up the balance, although he would not estimate how much
that might be.
"We've been talking about
corporate sponsorship," Baly said. "But they're not
exactly lining up for this."
Athletes selected randomly
would be asked to supply a urine sample following any
state tournament event, emulating a process used by the
NCAA and in the Olympics. Sixty percent of the tests would
be performed in football, wrestling, track and field,
swimming, lacrosse and baseball, sports that Baly
described as high-risk sports for steroid use.
Besides having to sit out
one calendar year, athletes who test positive also would
be forced to forfeit individual honors, such as a district
wrestling championship or a state medal in track. Team
honors, such as a state football championship, would not
be affected by a positive test.
"The feeling was that
schools could not be expected to know if an athlete is
using steroids unless they implement their own testing
program, which is cost-prohibitive," Baly said.
"Therefore, the team should not be punished for the
actions of one player."
Athletes who test positive
can appeal the results to a special committee of the
NJSIAA. If they are unsuccessful, they can bring that
appeal to the commissioner of Education for public schools
and the Superior Court of New Jersey for non-public