Professional athletes have been in the news a lot over the past few years, either being accused or admitting to taking performance-enhancing drugs. Major league baseball has taken several hits with accusations being brought against some of their top players, such as home-run king Mark McGwire, who took the fifth amendment to not incriminate himself during Congressional questioning on the subject. Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees, and Olympic sprinter Marion Jones are a few others, who have been accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs. More than 20 athletes were thrown out of the 2004 Olympic Games for “doping violations”, and at least two gold medal winners forfeited their wins and medals for using such drugs.
The abuse of steroids is most common among professional athletes and bodybuilders, who feel the pressure to win against daunting competition. The abuse of steroids has become so prevalent that President George W. Bush called upon professional athletes, team owners, and coaches to stop all players from taking the performance-enhancing drugs. Though the effects of long-term use of steroids is enough to cause concern with often permanent and dangerous physical and emotional effects, it has been shown that teen athletes now are using steroids at an alarming rate — to the point that it has the attention of Congress and the President of the United States.
Parents, too, are gravely concerned — and for good reason. A federally funded annual survey of teens’ drug use by the University of Michigan, called Monitoring the Future, showed that in 2002 three percent of high school seniors had reportedly taken steroids at least once. Other sources report that as many as five percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 have taken it. That is 1.1 million of our children across the nation.
Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst wants all Texas schools’ athletes to be the cleanest athletes in the nation and is proposing that all Texas schools’ athletes be randomly tested for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
Texas schools has a sports program with more than 700,000 participating students — more than any other state. Dewhurst’s proposal would cost about $2 million annually, which would be provided to the Texas schools through state funding specifically for the random drug testing program.
Reactions to Dewhurst’s proposal have been mixed within the Texas Schools. A few local school district officials do not believe such testing is necessary. Mike Owens, head football coach of Texas schools’ Robert E. Lee, located in East Texas, stated that the “cost would not be worth the outcome”, believing that the Texas schools have more of a problem with street drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana. If the Texas schools tested for those, he would be all for it; but he does not believe performance-enhancing drugs are that big of a problem within the Texas schools’ athletic programs. He backed up his beliefs by stating that Texas schools’ coaches see their athletes daily and would notice a change in physique and would see the mood swings associated with such drug abuse. He further suggested the money would be better spent on education about the misuse of such drugs.
Some Texas schools already do random drug testing with their athletes. Lindale, Chapel Hill and Whitehouse are three such Texas schools districts, though Chapel Hill does not test for steroids. Not only do they believe the random testing keeps the athletes clean, but they also hope that it gives the students a reason to say no.
Texas schools’ student athletes had the most surprising reaction to Dewhurst’s proposal. Many said they would not mind being tested. They know that such drugs makes for an uneven playing field and would like to keep their Texas schools’ athletic programs clean. There always is the temptation to use performance-enhancing drugs to gain strength and bulk in order to get the advantage over your competition. It has become especially tempting, knowing that so many professional athletes has used them.