Schlik's Take: UIL Steroid Testing debate

Talk about the UIL Anabolic Steroids Testing is an on-going debate which will continue for years to come. While in discussion, TPI-Austin writer James Schleicher decided to speak on it.

After two years of testing the University Interscholastic League Anabolic Steroids Testing Program has only had 19 positive test, and Texas Lawmakers recently voted to cut the programs funding from $6 million to $2 million.While the two-thirds cut will definitely make the program smaller, it is a good thing the program didn't get cut completely. Even with the cuts, the program can still work as a deterrent to protect both the safety and integrity of UIL athletic participants.

While the taking of performance enhancing drugs may not seem a huge issue for high school athletics, if there is even a hint that a problem exists it should be handled in some way. In a state where high school football is taken to the extreme, I for one have no problem with making sure that players are tested to protect the integrity of the sport and prevent cheating. The programs cuts will mean that about 15,000 students will get tested each year, as opposed to the 45,000 in previous years. While the program has only a slight chance of catching culprits, the fact that it exist may prevent a large number of players from thinking about taking performance-enhancing drugs. Texas is one of only three states in the the country to have a drug testing program, but the fact that one is in place, is an indication that state lawmakers take the issue seriously.

Most recently, in a report by the New York Times, TrenExtreme and MassExtreme, have come under scrutiny due to the fact that they may contain illegal man-made steroids. Among the most common users of these supplements are high school football players, a market to which the product is targeted. According to medical professionals, the use of illegal steroids by teenagers can stunt bone growth, damage some of the body's vital organs, and lead to a number of other problems in the short and long term. While taking these supplements to bulk up for football may seem like good idea, it involves a lot of health risks and can be dangerous, especially when abused.

While I am thankful that a drug testing program is in place, coaches and school district officials should act as the first line of defense in protecting our student athletes. Coaches, as many do, should go beyond just a simple lecture saying 'don't do this, it's bad for you,' and seek to actively educate their players on taking care of their bodies.

And even though he was recently suspended for his use of illegal performance enhancing substances, baseball player Manny Ramirez still seems to have the love of many fans and has a significant support group. It's a shame that cheaters still are still glorified by being put in the spotlight and are cheered for. These actions only further encourages younger players to follow them down the wrong path.

Taking these substances in not only cheating and unhealthy, but people should also be aware they are illegal. Possession of steroids without a prescription is a Class A Misdemeanor in Texas, but can be classified as a felony, depending on the amount of the drug. 

When state titles and college scholarships are on the line, players may take any step possible to give themselves an advantage. Just as they should do with drugs, alcohol and sex, parents should take the time to talk to their student-athletes about supplements and performance enhancing drugs. Some online resources to help with this are, www.healthycompetition.org/ and www.drugfreesport.com.

The UIL testing program will likely come up for discussion two years from now at the next legislative session. Perhaps then the program will have zero positive test and can be cut back even further. Regardless, some form of the program should stay in place to protect UIL student-athletes. For now I am thankful the program exist and hope that even though the chances of getting caught are slim, student-athletes will think twice before partaking in something they know they shouldn't do in the first place.


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