Texas Dismantles Public High School Steroids Testing Program

By John Lavitt 09/02/15

Texas had a program they believed the rest of the country would adopt.

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In 2007, Texas officials decided to launch a comprehensive public high school steroid testing program of athletics ranging from football to tennis. Fearing a rise in doping by young athletes, politicians promised a model program. At the time, they believed the rest of the country would follow their lead.

Schools across the country watched the Texas program and it made them uncomfortable, said Don Colgate, director of sports and sports medicine at the National Federation of State High School Associations. "Texas was going out in front in a big way, (but) it's not a cheap process," Colgate said.

Due to the costs related to a steroids testing program, only New Jersey and Illinois adopted the program, since Texas spent over $10 million to test more than 63,000 students. What proved even more frustrating was that the program ended up catching just a handful of cheaters.

Texas lawmakers hope to defund the program by the end of the summer. Past supporters are now calling it a waste of money as well as being too flawed in design to catch the steroid abusers. Don Hooton, who started the Taylor Hooton Foundation for steroid abuse education after his 17-year-old son's 2003 suicide was linked to the drug's use, was one of the key advocates in creating the Texas program. He believes the protocols were poorly designed and allowed too many steroid abusers to slip through the cracks.

"I believe we made a huge mistake," Hooton said in venting his frustrations. "Coaches, schools, and politicians have used the abysmal number of positive tests to prove there's no steroid problem. What did we do here? We just lulled the public to sleep.”

In the 2013-14 school year, Texas tested 2,633 students and caught two. Hooton said those low figures failed to match anecdotal evidence of higher steroid use among teens. A 2014 study by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids found that 7% of high school athletes reported using steroids from 2009-2013.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.