As part of our Mitchell Report coverage today, the Times had this story on the state of high-school steroid use and testing in Washington. What did we find?
1) There won’t be any state-wide steroid testing in Washington in the near future.
2) Coaches seem to think that the problem was much worse five to 10 years ago.
3) The U.S. government’s gold-standard study on high-school drug use, the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study, indicates that steroid use has declined in the past five years, from 4.0 percent to 2.2 percent.
Yet, as the Mitchell Report points out, even 2.2 percent of high-schoolers is a lot of kids. Hundreds of thousands. Think about it — that’s one in 50.
I tried to reach the UM professor in charge of the study last night, but I didn’t get a hold of him. But I did find this recent story, where he almost directly connects the rise and decline in steroid use during the past 10 years to the success of Mark McGwire and the negative publicity surrounding Barry Bonds.
Give the story a read. You always hear about athletes as role models, but it’s chilling to see evidence of just how much of an effect they have.
But is testing the answer? Three states currently test for steroids. New Jersey and Florida already have testing programs in place, but they test a very small percentage of athletes. The idea there is that even the minute chance of being tested can deter an athlete from using steroids.
The Texas program, which will be in place by the end of the year, will test 20,000 to 25,000 athletes. But it comes at a cost: almost $6 million. Not even moving the Class 3A football semifinals after breakfast could raise that much for the WIAA, so that money would have to come from somewhere.
But again, there’s no push for a program right now from Washington schools. So this is a moot issue, at least for the foreseeable future.