LANSING-As scandals involving steroids in sports
unfold on a national level, some state lawmakers want to ensure that high school
athletes who take illegal performance-enhancing substances will be punished.
Proposed legislation would require school districts and charter schools to make sure their athletic eligibility policies treat the use of banned performance-enhancing substances as a violation that adversely affects the students’ eligibility to participate on school sports teams.
Rep. Daniel Acciavatti, R-Chesterfield Township, the primary sponsor, said he wants a uniform policy statewide because of technological advancements in anabolic
steroids and their spread to high school athletes.
"I know it happens,” Acciavatti said.
The legislation would require the Department of Community Health to maintain a list of banned performance-enhancing substances, probably one similar to that of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Acciavatti, who competed in football and diving in high school, said he had to take drug tests required by the NCAA when he was a cheerleader at the University of Michigan.
However, he said, the situation was different 15 years ago. “Today,
there are some frightening things out there to perform better and the potential
for harm is greater.”
In recent weeks, nine athletes at Colleyville Heritage High School near Dallas and six athletes at Daniel Hand High School in Connecticut were exposed for steroid use. The athletes competed in baseball, football or track.
"It’s just not fair if a student using steroids is competing with others who are not,” said Rep. Robert Gosselin, R-Troy, another sponsor.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse classifies anabolic steroids as dangerous drugs with severe, long-term and often irreversible health consequences. Possible side effects include heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, hair loss and psychiatric problems.
An institute study found adolescent steroid abuse on the rise but perceived risk of harm on the decline. The study found 3.4 percent of all 12th graders have used steroids, with 2.5 percent using them in the previous month.
John Johnson, communications director for the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA), said the legislation would call on school districts to raise awareness of the dangers of anabolic steroids and institute punishment for cheaters.
"It’s an integrity issue and a safety issue,” Johnson said. “And, when you boil it down to its simplest form, it’s cheating.”
Johnson said the districts haven’t asked the MHSAA to get involved in the issue and steroid policies should remain a matter of local control. “School districts want to determine what plays best in their communities.”
New Boston Huron Schools in southern Wayne County and the Grand Blanc School District near Flint are the only two districts in the state that drug-test their athletes, he said.
New Boston Huron Athletic Director Rick Dorn said testing provides another deterrent to using drugs. “We are giving the athletes another reason to say no.”
The New Boston Huron district requires drug testing for all athletes in grades seven through 12. All competitors have one mandatory test, and high school athletes face two random tests each season. Under its policy, the first violation means the student must miss 20 percent of the season and undergo counseling.
However, athletes can opt to admit to drug use prior to a test, which reduces the first offense punishment to counseling, without affecting eligibility.
"We want to be as nonpunitive as possible while still having consequences,” Dorn said.
Dorn said that in the two years since the testing was instituted, about 10 athletes have either tested positive for a drug or admitted to use before the test.
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld school districts’ right to test athletes for illegal substances.
Acciavatti said, “There is a lot of pressure for high school students to win and perform. We would be naïve to think this isn’t going on and we would be naïve to not do something about it.”