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Question of the day

Tuesday, Mar 31, 2009

* This bill has already passed the House, but today’s Sun-Times editorial reminded me to ask the question. The setup is from a recent Tribune story

Student-athletes across the state would be subject to random drug testing throughout the season if a bill that was unanimously passed by the House on Thursday is approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Illinois last fall joined Texas, New Jersey and Florida in testing its high school athletes in a plan implemented and funded by the Illinois High School Association. Florida dropped its state-funded program in mid-February, citing a lack of money.

Sponsoring Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) said the bill proposes testing an additional 1,000 student-athletes each year from at least 25 percent of Illinois high schools. […]

Of the 264 tests that were administered last fall, 258 came back negative; the six others were granted medical exceptions.

“I think it’s a good thing because it will even the playing field,” said Nazareth running back LaSteven McKinney, a junior. “With the old system, they had time to clear their system before a random test. I think most kids still think they won’t get caught.”

The Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union opposes the legislation because “there ought to be some basis on which to do that search,” said spokesman Ed Yohnka.

* The Question: Should Illinois’ high school athletes be randomly tested for performance enhancing drugs? Explain fully. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


22 Comments
  1. - Shore - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 11:40 am:

    As a Republican I generally support things like this, but as a former student athlete I think it’s highly unnecessary. The vast majority of student athletes in high school don’t play running back for the Dillon Panthers and it seems like a huge waste of money to test the Deerfield High School women’s golf team for drugs.


  2. - OneMan - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 11:46 am:

    If it gives a kid a reason to say no.. “Yeah I would love to but it’s football season and I might get tested” I don’t have an issue with it.


  3. - Sacks Romana - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 11:52 am:

    No. In addition to being a violation of the right to privacy, it serves absolutely no purpose at a huge expense.

    The medical expemptions above means that out of 264 tests, 264 came back negative. I knew plenty of people and athletes in high school that were on low prescription steroids for a variety of legitimate medical conditions. They were not performance enhancing.

    What is the ratio of high school athletes using performance enhancing drugs to those flunking classes but having the coaches and admins pulling strings so they can still compete. At my high school kids were sometimes busted for drinking on the weekends by the police. If they were football players, it was unlikely they’d miss a game. Other athletes or students would sometimes be suspended for these off-campus incidents. And even these problems shouldn’t be addressed by the state, but local school boards and PTA.

    And aside from athletes, there are way more adolescents with drug problems far more serious than the miniscule amount of student athelets using performance enhancing drugs. This bill is a joke and an insult to the real problems facing teenagers.

    The easiest and best solution to stop young athletes from using performance enhancers is to really outlaw them in professional sports instead of glorifying every new home run hitter that just went up four helmet sizes in the last year.


  4. - Heartless Libertarian - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 11:52 am:

    Was tested 3 or 4 times when I was in high school… never came back positive… I was quite surprised….


  5. - Deep South - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 12:06 pm:

    Random drug testing of teachers and coaches first, then student-athletes.


  6. - Ghost - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 12:29 pm:

    Random drug testing of legislatures who vote on laws first, then students.

    BTW, since we are in a fiscal crisis, who pays for this and who gets thejuicy contract to do the testing.


  7. - Amy - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 12:34 pm:

    yes, then maybe we can extend it to all pro athletes in a way that will have some consequences. everyone should be on the Olympics standard when it comes to athletics and performance enhancing drugs.


  8. - Fan of the Game - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 12:40 pm:

    While it’s legal already for Illinois schools to randomly test student-athletes for performance enhancing drugs, it shouldn’t be mandated. It’s a costly exercise for school districts, and the percentage of students using such drugs is miniscule.

    School districts (and the state) have much better uses for their resources.


  9. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 1:11 pm:

    Most troubling is the blind acceptance that whatever lab is doing the analysis is qualified and follows procedure. The cycling world (to Amy’s point–Olympic level testing) has been rocked by a series of positive tests that any honest scientist wouldn’t vouch for.

    The standards are supposed to be in line with the World Anti-Doping Agency which was run by Dick Pound for a long time. Dick Pound and his colleagues are incompetent buffoons who understand virtually nothing about confidence intervals.

    WPA is even starting to lose cases in front of the kangaroo courts they set up. It’s simply not fair to high school athletes to have their reputation put at stake over mediocre science.


  10. - Hair today, gone.... - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 1:30 pm:

    When my daughters high school golf team entered end of season tournaments last fall, we got letters informing us of the random testing. I was happy my daughter didn’t think it was a big deal. In my high school days, this could have been problematic.


  11. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 1:36 pm:

    Hmm. Not an incredibly popular QOTD, I see.


  12. - bman - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 1:52 pm:

    it is unfortunate that drug testing is needed at any level of sports. However our society has put way too much emphasis on athletics. Professional and college level sports have already been corrupted. Maybe high school sports can return to where drug testing is not neccesary. Another point is that it isn’t the student athletes. Remember the story where a high school football coach would only let the players drink fluids supplied by the team, only to find out steriods had been added. The whole scenario is just too darn sad.


  13. - Frank Booth - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 1:53 pm:

    Yes and as a treat to AFSCME the legislation should require testing be done by certified, unionized Illinois Department of Public Health labs, which will require more staffing to handle the influx and quick turnaround.
    Everybody wins, except for the roid users.


  14. - just ducky - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 1:56 pm:

    how many high schools are that fantastic on the national stage? not many. if those schools want to test to promote their athletes to professional sports leagues, let them pay for it. i’d rather see IHSA contributing to oh, i don’t know, education for cheerleaders about the importance of proper nutrition or teaching all sports participants how to properly lift weights and exercise to prevent the life-long injuries they’re suffering now or recruiting qualified coaches, for heaven’s sake. i know too many young high schoolers already facing surgeries from the extreme demands on their little bodies, not to mention that these kids play sports to learn something from someone who ought to know something about the sport –not some no one off the street who encourages students to tee-pee houses as a team building exercise.


  15. - Dan S, a Voter, Taxpayer and Cubs Fan - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 2:22 pm:

    If there is nothing illegal to hide then what is the problem with testing?


  16. - Nearly Normal - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 2:26 pm:

    I taught at a downstate school that random tested all students participating in IHSA sponsored events including band, debate and speech teams, etc. During the three years before I retired in ‘05 only two students tested positive. One was banished from sports for the year and the other was proven to have had a false positive from taking doctor ordered prescription drugs.

    Most of the hard-core users were not in school-sponsored activities. It probably made those who dabbled cut back during season.

    THe method was urine tests. This did not test for long-term use such as a hair sample would detect. When I substitute taught in Peoria in 2006 at Notre Dame High I had to submit a hair sample for a drug test as part of my employment. So, they found out I was not a natural blond.


  17. - Joe Schmoe - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 2:37 pm:

    If I recall correctly, this first year of the IHSA mandated random drug testing of students participating in IHSA state tournaments has resulted in NO positive tests. None. Zip. Zero.

    So is it worth it? Sure as hell is. Just the idea of random testing serves as a wonderful deterrent.


  18. - JI - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 3:24 pm:

    My high school started it while I was a student about 4-6 years ago. Not only was it for student athletes but randomly for any student involved in ANY extra-curricular.

    I’d say test randomly for any extra-curriculars, but test ALL student athletes. As well as all teachers and coaches.


  19. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 4:09 pm:

    I’m rather baffled by so many in this thread just assuming the science is good when the very standards the World Anti-Doping agency uses are a joke in many cases. The testosterone standards aren’t based on reasonable confidence intervals and as I mentioned even some of the kangaroo courts set up by WADA have started dismissing supposed positive test results.

    But add to this the problem of these are growing people with hormones out of whack–how do you effectively test for testosterone in teenage boys when you don’t know the 95% confidence intervals?

    http://trustbut.blogspot.com/2008/03/breaking-science-te-test-isnt-very-good.html

    The report linked in the story essentially says that there isn’t a 5% significance level to the test, but a 14% which is well outside of standard statistical practice. Of course, in a test like this you would still want to shoot for 1% significance level at least or you would find 50 students out of the 1000 student random sample who would be identified as using a performance enhancing substance even though they were not.

    Develop the science–meaning in the case of testosterone–do a long range study of testosterone levels before you start testing people for it.


  20. - zoble - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 6:52 pm:

    As a parent of 2 high school athletes, I have no problem with this idea. But here’s another. How about testing welfare recipients as a requirement
    to receive aid? Other states have started this.


  21. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 6:56 pm:

    No. I haven’t seen that it’s been identified as a problem.

    There are good education efforts going on in the sport I’m involved in. Believe me, the high schoolers I know are down on steriods. They resent that the baseball memories of their childhood was stolen from them because of the cheating by Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, ARod, et al.


  22. - Lynn S - Wednesday, Apr 1, 09 @ 12:22 am:

    Oh, all the taxpayers will be paying for it. Can’t wait for the uproar when we have to cut positions to balance the budget because of this.

    Good question about the lab contacts, though. Rich, do you know anything/have you heard anything?

    My choice: first test the legislators, then the admin. staff within the district, then the coaches and teachers, and finally the atheletes. Wouldn’t we all like to see those results??


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