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Drugs in High School Sports: Fast Action On PEDs Warranted

The Miami Herald reported Tuesday that a list of alleged clients of Biogenesis — the Coral Gables clinic linked to this week’s suspension of 13 Major League baseball players for PED use — included two high school ballplayers, and five others from Miami-Dade and Broward counties who are in college now.

On Wednesday, Roger Dearing, the FHSAA’s executive director, sent a letter to the association’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, asking for a “top-to-bottom review of existing policies and procedures regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs.”

Specifically, Dearing, a former superintendent of Manatee County schools, asked the panel to consider whether current policies “provide sufficient authority for schools to test and and discipline student athletes who may be using improper substances.”

He also wants to know “the legal, policy and fiscal implications of heightened policies” against PEDs.


As of now, the FHSAA lacks authority to conduct drug testing.

If there’s a report of an athlete violating the association’s ban on PEDs, the FHSAA forwards the information to the student’s school principal, who can investigate and — if warranted — order testing.

A student who tests positive is suspended from sports until obtaining a clean test.

But drug tests are expensive. Tests for most banned substances, including steroids, cost about $150 per athlete.

Testing all of the estimated 283,000 students playing Florida high school sports would cost some $42 million. Obviously, that won’t happen.

Still, the reports on the Biogenesis ties to high school athletes warrant the FHSAA response, and should raise concerns of school officials, coaches and parents statewide.

The news reports call into question Florida’s only attempt at widespread testing of high school students for banned substances.

Using a special $100,000 grant from the Legislature, the FHSAA conducted random testing during the 2007-2008 school year.

Of those tests — involving 600 athletes at 53 schools, participating in football, girls and boys weightlifting, baseball and softball — only one was positive.

But there is no doubt that the Biogenesis scandal has provided strong evidence about easy access to PEDs.

For example, the results of Major League Baseball’s investigation were confirmed by 12 of the 13 players suspended.

Only the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez is appealing his suspension.

The clinic’s link to two current and five former Florida high school athletes is, as Dearing said, “a wake-up call.”

The main concern, as Dearing noted, is the health and safety of student-athletes. Use of steroids and other PEDs can have side effects such as heart, kidney and liver damage as well cause emotional and behavioral changes.


Yet, the pressure to compete and excel in high school sports is intense. Florida high school football and baseball teams routinely rank among the best in the country.

Their players — many of whom, because of the climate, compete and train year round — are sought after by major college programs and professional teams.

Those pressures lead some high school athletes to try PEDs, says Don Bridges, district director of athletics for Polk County Schools and a longtime coach. “There are definitely PEDs at the high school level,” Bridges told the Miami Herald. “Some kids don’t get as big and as fast as they are these days without taking something.”

Dearing and the FHSAA deserve credit for being willing to acknowledge that possibility and to take steps to better detect and discourage the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

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