Miami-Dade County Public Schools of Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S., has decided to take a bold move to combat doping in high school sports.
Few weeks back, a pilot program to test student-athletes for anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs was announced. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the district is the fourth largest in the U.S., serving more than 340,000 students.
Marcos Moran, assistant superintendent of school operations in the district, remarked we are very concerned about the use of these illegal drugs. Moran said the district plans to test approximately 250-300 student-athletes at the high school level through the program that will start this coming school year. According to a study released earlier this year from the University of Pennsylvania, about 20 percent of high schools in the U.S. have student drug testing policies. However, students are usually not checked for performance enhancing drugs.
Annie Skinner, spokeswoman for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which manages drug testing for the U.S. Olympic teams said there are school districts that do conduct limited drug testing, but in terms of nationally, it's not very common. Skinner also remarked she thinks that it is a challenge, certainly to fight the external pressures that students face, and we know that, really, kids do face those pressures. Skinner added there is the pressure to make the high school team and there is the pressure to do the best you can in high school to get that college scholarship and so the pressures on young athletes are very intense. Skinner also said it takes parents, coaches, teachers, and other role models to teach young student-athletes that they can attain success while competing healthy and clean.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a typical drug panel tests for marijuana, amphetamines, opioids, cocaine, and Phencyclidine (PCP, a recreational dissociative drug).
But, new data reveals that high school students are increasingly using performance enhancing drugs. According to a survey released last month by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, use of synthetic human growth hormone among high school students more than doubled over the past year, from 5 to 11 percent. This survey also disclosed that the use of anabolic steroids among teenagers increased from 5 to 7 percent. Abuse of these drugs can result in health complications such as uncontrollable aggression, infertility, acne, oily skin, gynecomastia, and stunted growth. Steroid abuse by girls can result in menstrual irregularities, development of male secondary sexual characteristics, and growth of facial hair.
Sean Clarkin, director of programs at the Partnership For Drug-Free Kids when asked why teens are increasingly using performance-enhancing drugs said he thinks some of it is certainly athletic performance but added he thinks a lot of it is appearance and weight loss and he thinks there are a variety of different reasons why kids are using this stuff. Clarkin added many teenagers could be consuming substances that they believe contain synthetic HGH (only available legally with a prescription) but in reality do not.