Posted: 12:25 pm Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

FHSAA plans review of drug policy in wake of pro baseball steroid scandal 

By Jeff Greer

With professional sports embroiled in an ongoing struggle with performance-enhancing drug use, the Florida High School Athletic Association announced on Tuesday its intention to review the organization’s existing PED prevention policies.

The FHSAA hopes to heighten PED awareness in the high school sports community and push the state’s school districts and private schools to enact preventive measures and tougher punishments for student-athletes using illegal substances. The association’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee will head the assessment of the FHSAA’s current policy, which allows member schools to suspend student-athletes for PED use.

FHSAA Executive Director Roger Dearing fears his organization’s policies aren’t strong enough in the wake of a Miami Herald report alleging steroid use among high school athletes. The article, posted Tuesday, said a partial list of alleged clients of Biogenesis, the PED-peddling company at the center of the Alex Rodriguez scandal, includes two current private-school baseball players and five former South Florida high school athletes.

“Performance-enhancing drugs have no place in our sports,” Dearing said in a Tuesday conference call with reporters. “There is a problem. We can’t ignore the issue. We need to take these steps and get the advice from those experts and let them lead us in establishing some sort of policy for the FHSAA and for school districts to rely on.”

School districts and private schools have the authority to conduct random drug tests on student-athletes if there’s reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use. Dearing said the FHSAA does not have current statistics to show how many Florida student-athletes are currently using PEDs, but a study conducted a decade ago revealed one user out of a sample size of 650 student-athletes. There were more than 280,000 student-athletes participating in sports at FHSAA-member schools in 2012.

“There’s no way we can test every child but we can ask school districts if they can test kids who are under suspicion of using PEDs,” Dearing said.

Comprehensive drug tests usually cost more than $100 each, making the funding of the initiative rather difficult. While the Florida state legislature allocated $100,000 for the statewide tests 10 years ago, state funding isn’t Dearing’s top choice for the financial backing of tests. He cited corporations like Johnson and Johnson that already help finance high school programs.

“There are enough people involved now (in high school sports) to provide funds for it,” Dearing said. “There are resources available. It’s the responsibility of communities to make sure their schools are drug-free.”

State Sen. Bill Montford of Tallahassee and Dr. Jennifer Roth Maynard joined Dearing on the conference call. Maynard is a member of the FHSAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, which has focused much of its attention on heat, hydration and concussion issues in high school sports.

A release from the FHSAA said the committee will consider three main topics in its review:

– Whether existing policies and procedures provide sufficient authority for schools to test and discipline student-athletes who may be using banned substances.

– The legal, policy and fiscal implications of heightened policies against performance-enhancing drugs.

– Whether the FHSAA prohibition against performance-enhancing drugs would be more effective if set out as a standalone policy rather than existing only as a part of a broader policy on sportsmanship.

“The FHSAA’s overriding priority is the safety, well-being and constructive development of young student-athletes, whose bodies and character are still forming,” Dearing said. “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.”