Steroids a growing problem among high school athletes

By Jamie Anfenson-Comeau

During last week’s anabolic steroid drug bust, the largest in the parish’s history, Sheriff Bobby Guidroz announced that over 100 users had been identified, including a number of high school students.

This isn’t news to many of the local high school coaches and administrators.

“I do think it’s growing, we do have an element that is using the health clubs and gyms to sell this stuff,” St. Landry Parish Supervisor of Athletics Donnie Perron said, adding, “I think the sheriff is doing a good job with the recent drug bust, and making people aware that this is a growing problem.”

Perron said he believes that steroid use is a bigger problem in large cities where it is more accessible to those with higher incomes.

Studies have shown that anabolic steroid users tend to come from more affluent families than other illegal drug users.

Anabolic steroids are classified as a Schedule III Controlled Substance; possession without a prescription is a federal offense punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.

Although St. Landry Parish School Board policy bans the use of both recreational and performance-enhancing illegal drugs, the parish currently does not test for steroids due to the cost; $150 to $200 per test.

Perron said that the school system is now strongly considering testing in circumstances where there is reasonable suspicion, but does not feel that statewide mandatory drug testing is a financially viable option in Louisiana.

Currently, three states have mandated random drug testing: New Jersey, Florida and Texas.

The Florida program has recently been suspended, and the Texas program has come under attack lately after over 10,000 tests in the 2007-2008 school year resulted in only two positives.

Eunice High Athletic Director Paul Trosclair said he would be in favor of state-mandated drug testing.

“It would be a good idea, if we could get some help with the costs. It would have to be completely random, and test all athletes. As the recent baseball steroids scandal showed, it’s a problem that reaches into all sports.”

With testing priced out-of-reach, Trosclair said Eunice High has been working on educating its athletes about the dangers of steroid use.

“We’ve brought in experts to talk to the kids; our strength coach is really knowledgeable about the dangers of steroids,” Trosclair said, adding, “I don’t know how much they listen to us, though; many of them would rather listen to the gym crowd who are selling this stuff.”

When Tom Andrus took over as Athletic Director at St. Edmund, steroid use was one of his biggest concerns.

“It’s a big pet peeve of mine, that if you can’t succeed through hard work, through weight training, through practice, but have to go with the quick fix of steroids to win, then I don’t want you on my team,” Andrus said, adding, “I’m not going to stand for putting a kid’s health in jeopardy just to win. If that’s the only way I can win, then I don’t want it.”

To that end, Andrus helped introduce a random drug testing program for all student athletes when he took over as athletic director, with the testing paid for by the school’s booster club.

With a verified positive test, a student athlete misses one third of the season of the first sport played.

In the case of football, Andrus said, that means no scrimmage, no jamboree, and missing the first four games of the season.

“They don’t get to stay on the sidelines with the team, they don’t even get to wear their uniform jersey, like the injured kids do during games, but they still have to come to practice,” Andrus said.

A second test is performed after 100 days, at the student-athlete’s expense. If that test is also positive, the individual is banned from school sports at St. Edmund’s.

“That’s it, no more. Two strikes and you’re out,” Andrus said.

Two students tested positive for steroids last year and were held accountable under the school rules, Andrus said.

Andrus said he feels very strongly that a state-mandated steroid testing should be put in place, regardless of the cost.

“The bottom line is, what kind of price can you put on a child’s life? The cost of testing shouldn’t matter.”

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