High School Athlete Drug Tests Debated

At least three state high school associations — in Texas, Illinois and New Jersey — put in programs to test student-athletes. All three programs were operated by Drug Free Sport. The contracts were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

One case that triggered alarm involved Taylor Hooton, 17, of Plano, Tex., whose 2003 suicide widened concerns about high school students' use of performance-enhancing drugs. Hooton's father, Don, was among those who lobbied lawmakers for drug-testing programs in high schools.

But a decade later, Don Hooton and others have reversed course, arguing that the programs may provide little benefit to students and society.

"We have a real problem here," Hooton said of steroid use among high school students. "But we're not getting at it."

In 1995, the United States Supreme Court ruled that drug testing for high school athletes was constitutional, and some districts expanded their policies to include middle schools. Proponents of testing at the high school level say that it offers students a way to say no to drugs and that it serves as a deterrent.

But others question the effectiveness of the programs.

In 2007, Dr. Linn Goldberg, head of the division of health promotion and sports medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, published the results of a study of athletes at five high schools that had drug-testing programs and six schools that had deferred enacting a drug-testing policy. Goldberg found that athletes from the two groups did not differ in their alcohol or drug consumption.

Image: Football helmet, via Shutterstock


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