Drug Testing: You Can't See the Forest for the Tre

OK.

Now I have heard everything.

We are going to drug test athletes at Dutch Fork High? If they volunteer and if their parents say it's OK and if it rains on Tuesday and if the wind blows from the northeast across the Lake Murray Dam and if Kimmie is the next Survivor kicked out.

This is stupid.

First of all make no mistake about it, the process is flawed with error and is  impossible to administer when testing is mandatory much less voluntary. What Dutch Fork has done is make the testing a meaningless sham, which will do  absolutely nothing toward addressing the real problem of teen-age drug use. What the Lexington District 5 Board is doing is a crock and they know it.  They do not seriously believe that this program will stop drug use. It is fluff.  Basically, it is nothing but P.R. and The (Mis) State Newspaper has jumped all over it and is acting as a willing accomplice to this little farce of a policy.

Why are athletes and sports participants singled out? Why are they chosen to "aim for the cup"?  Statistics from a Department of Health and Human Services  last year found that students who participate in high school athletics are 49 percent LESS likely to have used drugs EVER. In other words, the kid not playing sports is TWICE as likely to use drugs. Why are we not testing him? (Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, "Adolescent Time Use, Risky Behavior and Outcomes: An Analysis of National Data" (September 11, 1999):

Ever see the kid playing the Tuba in the band? He looks suspicious to me.  Somebody get that kid a cup. I want a urine sample NOW!!!! Or why not just find the troublemakers and test them.  We could  have the Dutch Fork Principal dress up like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and tell the Assistant  Principal to "round up the usual suspects." Every bathroom at Dutch Fork could be equipped with one of those little windows like at the doctor's office. It would be great. Hey maybe even Johnson and Johnson Labs can  now be a sponsor of the Silver Foxes. Maybe a little J&J logo over the Nike Swoosh on all Dutch Fork team uniforms.

Of course one problem with all this is the testing is inaccurate. The International Olympic Committee has been testing for over 30 years and still has not gotten it right. They spend millions and millions of dollars on drug testing and still cheaters mask drugs and others are accused wrongly due to bad testing procedures. Millions of dollars for the IOC and they can't get it right, but for $25 bucks we can "do it right" in South Carolina.  It boggles the mind. Kimrey (AD at Dutch Fork) said "he's lined up  about $7,000 from anonymous donors for the upcoming spring sports season." You can't help but laugh.

In 1972 swimmer Rick DeMont was just 16 when he won the 400-meter freestyle gold medal by a hundredth of a second in at the Munich Olympics. Three days later, at his expense, the USA learned what drug testing was all about in a hard, cold lesson.

DeMont, an  asthma sufferer since he was 4, woke up wheezing the night before the competition. As usual, he took tablets of Marax, which contained ephedrine, an Olympic-banned drug.  When his failed drug test came back, DeMont was disqualified from the final of the 1,500 freestyle, an event in which he held the world record. He became the first U.S. athlete since Jim Thorpe  in 1912 to have to give back a gold medal. (Source USA Today, Sept 1, 1999, November 9, 2000, February 8, 2001; New York Times Feb. 7,2001)

For the past 28 years DeMont has been labeled a cheater and a "drug user" when his team doctor made a mistake with an allergy pill. DeMont has worked for ¾ of his life to clear his name. Drug testing is only 98.1% accurate today in the general population using expensive and modern testing procedures. (Source: USDOH&HR)  Do we want to create the illusion that an athlete is a drug user inaccurately 1.9% of the time due to faulty testing?  Finally, last week the United States Olympic Committee announced that DeMont was innocent of drug use and the doctors had made the mistake. 28 years later to redeem a true Olympic champion. How long would it take the SCHSL and Lexington District 5 to admit a mistake?

The  intent  ...  is  to  help  parents help their kids. It's not to punish them," Dutch Fork principal Ron Cowden said.

Huh???

If a kid is going to school 7 hours a day, studying, practicing for the team and living a healthy family life, then when is he going to go out and pop an "E". Maybe he is going to squeeze a few lines in during PE class.

Help the parents!?!?

The kids who need help are not the ones whose parents are taking an active interest in their kids, but the kids who parents do not give a rat's you-know-what about their kids. The program is voluntary. Those who don't need the help and who are clean anyway will be participating, while those young people who are on the fringes of the school, who do not participate in athletics or extra curricular activities, are left on the sidelines to fend for themselves. These are the kids that need the help, not the star QB who is living a healthy life with the support of his family, friends, and coaches.

Of  course  we  have to throw in a little hypocrisy to make the whole thing work.  Dutch Fork's athletics  director, Bill  Kimrey, said "he hopes the voluntary  testing program will give athletes a weapon to fend off pressure from peers to do something that could result in sanctions." OK. Peer Pressure is  bad we agree. Now read on. David Elam, who heads Dutch Fork's sports booster organization, said,  "I think it's a great idea. I think there will be pressure among athletes to participate. What have you got to hide?"  Elam  said. "The star indicates they're taking a stand that they're not going to do something stupid."

Peer pressure is bad if it makes you take drugs, but it is good if it re-enforces our warped policy. Mr. Right Hand meet Mr. Left Hand.

I spoke a few minutes ago with a friend that works with the ACLU. Now I don't  agree with the ACLU or most of its policies, but what he told me was astounding.  Studies show that drug testing is frequently inaccurate. In some instances, drug testing has been inaccurate in up to 13% of the cases when using low cost ($25???) cheaper methods of drug testing. Moreover, schools  that  require students to take drug tests in order to join sports teams or other extracurricular groups are discouraging young people from participating in activities that have important benefits -- and that may, in fact, keep them from experimenting with drugs. (ACLU Study on Drug Testing Aug. 00)

In  August 2000, the Indiana Court of Appeals struck down a school's policy of performing drug tests on students who participate in sports or other extracurricular activities, or who drive to school.  A lawyer for the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, which argued the appeal, said that a school might test an individual student if he or she is suspected of using drugs, but not an entire group of students who are under no such suspicion. (ACLU Study on Our Schools Sept. 00) The US District Court is scheduled to hear the case next year, with the case eventually headed to the Supreme Court.

Here is what other experts are saying:

American Academy of Pediatrics, "Testing  for  Drugs of Abuse in Children and Adolescents," Pediatrics Vol. 98 No. 2 August 1996: The AAP writes in opposition to non-suspicion-based screening for drug use among adolescents as a prerequisite to participation in school activities, stating: "Notwithstanding the Supreme Court ruling [Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton], students and student athletes should not be singled out for involuntary screening for drugs of abuse.  Such testing should not be a condition for participation in sports or any school functions except for health-related purposes.  Suspicion of drug use warrants a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified health professional."

Dr. William Bailey, Indiana Prevention Resource Center, 1998 Survey of "Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use by Indiana Children and Adolescents,"  Results from the Indiana survey, relating reported drug use by various adolescent groups with the potential that a particular drug will be detected, suggest that "many random school drug testing programs are unlikely to detect much drug use, since they often target the lowest risk students with tests that are unlikely to detect use of anything other than tobacco or marijuana use."

As evident by these remarks, drug testing athletes at Dutch Fork:

  • Does nothing to lessen the presence of drugs in our schools
  • Does nothing to target those at the greatest risk for possible drug use
  • Is inaccurate and does not detect all drugs
  • Does not reflect the level of drugs in our schools
  • May cause young people to avoid extra circular activities rather than to submit to drug testing which cause more free time and more opportunity for drug experimentation.

The Dutch Fork policy is a sham and the leaders know it. It is voluntary with parent's permission. It is a joke made only for public relations. Now the district can say "Look at us, we are fighting drugs", when in fact it is another stupid policy that is all flash and no substance.

If the school were serious about drugs, then they would start education earlier about the effects of drugs. They would hold mandatory classes in the high school about the dangers of drugs. They would institute a peer drug-counseling hotline and a teen drug-counseling center. They would make it  easier to for teens to come forward to get help, rather than worry about the possible punishment of ZERO tolerance. They would stop looking at drugs as a discipline problem but rather as a disease and a cry for help.

Most of all they would stop picking on athletes because they are in the public eye and in the newspaper. Test the debate team and academic or, rather yet, test no one.

Dutch Fork, you lose.

Dave Pickren
©The PickrenZONE


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