With the recent Lance Armstrong doping scandal dominating sports news, doping and drug testing is once again a hotly discussed topic in the world of sports. Every few years it seems like another doping scandal hits and a superstar athlete is found to not be so super on their own. (For a sadly long list, check out this Wikipedia page about athletes caught up in doping scandals). Drug testing among Olympic and professional athletes isn’t at all uncommon, and drug testing for high school athletes was deemed constitutional by the US Supreme Court back in 1995. But The New York Times recently published this article about a middle school in Pennsylvania that is requiring all their students to undergo drug testing in order to play on the school’s teams or participate in any clubs. Some believe that drug testing at a younger age can act as a deterrent for many students. As Matthew Franz says in the article,
You want to get in there and plant these seeds of what’s out there and do prevention early. The 11th and 12th graders, most of them have already made a choice. But the eighth graders, they’re still making decisions, and it helps if you give them that deterrent.
Other sources in the article saw the drug testing as, at best, pointless and at worse the testing was a violation of the civil liberties of the students.
Here are some interesting facts about doping and drug testing in sports:
In the months leading up to the 2012 Summer Games, 107 athletes were banned for doping.
Between 1998-2009, steroid use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders increase by 8.3% (1.2% to 1.3%), 8.3% (1.2% to 1.3%), and 29.4% (1.7% to 2.2%) respectively.
5-12% of male high school students and 1 percent of female students have used anabolic steroids by the time they are seniors.
Drug testing the Olympics didn’t start until the 1968 games and “the original intent of anti-doping rules was to prevent athletes from dropping dead of overdoses…”
Test samples from Olympic athletes are allowed to be stored for up to eight years so they can be subjected to new tests or checked for different drugs in the future. This retrospective testing means some athletes have been forced to give up their medals.
Some might say that everyone in professional sports has probably taken some form of steroids at one point or another in their career. If you want to win and be the best you have to do whatever it takes. If you don’t bend the rules but your competitor does and it gives them an advantage then who do you think is coming out on top? Olympic and professional athletes are pushing their bodies to the absolute limit; how else can they get that advantage?
But others point out that cheating is cheating, and using steroids definitely counts as cheating. Furthermore, because steroid abuse and doping is so rampant among professional athletes it has trickled down into college and high school level sports where some players are so desperate or determined to “make it” they turn to drug use to get an edge over other players. Coaches have even been convicted of supplying their young athletes with steroids.
So is the Pennsylvanian school from the New York Times article really overstepping the civil liberties of their students? Or are they just preparing for the trickling down of steroid abuse from the pros all the way to youth sports?
We’d love to hear what you have to think about doping and drug testing in youth sports!