Why Steroid Testing Won’t Solve the Youth Steroid Epidemic
It was just a few years that I could be counted among the most vocal supporters of steroid testing for high school athletes. However, real world experience has taught me that steroid testing is not a solution to the increasing rates of steroid usage among students of all ages.
To implement a meaningful steroid testing program in schools is complex and extremely expensive. It must also be implemented properly to be effective. If you don’t have an airtight plan for steroid testing you won’t be getting any positive test results back. When a testing program comes back with very few positive tests, the public and school leadership is prone to conclude that this low number of positive tests means that, “our kids aren’t using steroids.” The public is lulled to sleep and no one and no process is in place to act as a deterrent to this dangerous usage. This also make the problem worse because schools now believe they don’t have a steroid problem and they see no reason to educate their kids on this issue. This makes it hard to impact young lives. Testing should NEVER be relied onto measure the usage rates.
Why is it so challenging to detect steroid usage?
1. Testing Panels are Often Too Narrow
Let’s begin this discussion by understanding that there are over 120 types of known anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are simply various forms of synthetic testosterone. In order to detect these pharmaceutical steroids in a person’s urine, each sample has to be tested for each and every one of these 120 varying chemical structures. Implementing a testing program that will look for this many steroid varieties is expensive. Basically, schools cannot afford to do it the right way.
The State of Texas implemented the nation’s largest testing program that has ever been tried in the U.S. To save money, the state limited their “panel” of steroids that they looked for to 10. So, even before the urine samples were submitted to the labs for analysis, students had less than a 1 in 12 (10%) chance of having the drugs in their body detected. Or a 90% chance they were going to pass before they were even tested.
Note: many of “street” steroids are beyond the known universe of 120 types. MANY originate in China where they are designed not to be detectable by U.S. testing methods.
2. Kids Can Beat the Test
Today’s kids know how to beat a steroid test! I would ask each of you reading this blog to take a moment and go to your favorite search engine. Type in the words, “beat a steroid test,” and you will quickly get about half a million hits. If you will follow some of the links that appear, you will find instructions for beating even the most sophisticated tests that are performed on athletes.
Methods for beating the test:
- There are products that can be mixed into a urine sample that will cause the tests to miss the presence of steroids in the urine.
- There are devices that can provide, “warm synthetic urine instantly,” so that a person being tested can provide this product as a “substitute” for their own urine. The most popular product is the Whizzinator. Take a look for yourself here: http://www.thewhizzinator.com/
- There are instructions to guide the user on which drugs to take based on its half-life – the length of time that it will remain in their system.
- And, so much more!
3. Testing is Often Announced Beforehand
To be effective, testing must be truly random and unannounced.
- Random: We are regularly told of schools where the same people miraculously are randomly selected almost every time the urine collection team appears on their campus. This is simply not acceptable! Random means random!
- Unannounced: NO ONE (including coaches) can know that the collection team is coming to collect urine samples from their athletes, “tomorrow.” After visiting some of the web sites that provide knowledge and products to show people how to beat tests, the reason for this now becomes pretty obvious!
4. Supervision is Required
The collection of urine samples must be “supervised”. What this means is that an official must accompany the person being tested into the rest room to observe that individual producing their urine sample and watching it at it goes into the collection cup. If not, it makes it exceedingly easy for the person being tested to “substitute” someone else’s urine for their own.
- During one of our education programs, a young college girl stood up and told the audience that she was currently supplying urine for three of her friends – friends that played on her college football team that were subject to being tested for steroids!
5. Out of Season Testing
Some states including, e.g., IL & NJ, have gone to post-season testing to help manage costs. However, many steroid users don’t use these drugs during their playing season.
- For example, we’ve had the opportunity to speak to many athletes that use these drugs over the offseason, because these drugs allow them to train more frequently and gain the size and strength they need before their season starts. But, because they’ve stopped using before season starts, and they’ve chosen the “right” steroids to take, then they have little or no chance of being caught.
Note: that some jurisdictions only test during post season competition. Think about it. In these situations, users can use steroids throughout the competitive season and stop when they realize that their team is destined for the playoffs. Just in time to make sure that they have no risk of their usage being detected!
The Alternative to Testing is…
Steroid testing is a sophisticated business and when implemented the correct way it can be very effective, e.g., professional sports and the Olympics. What I’ve highlighted in this blog, is not an exhaustive list of ways to defeat steroid tests. Not a single high school has implemented a program that is sophisticated enough to address these issues. As a result, none of these programs have a realistic chance of detecting the steroids that kids are taking. To do so would be way too expensive for most schools
So, what do we do if we don’t have testing as a tool? We educate! We talk to young people about the risks of using these illegal drugs. Just like we do with all other drugs, we need to mandate coaching and parent education courses. We need to make information available to our young people and equip adults to talk to them.
That’s where the Taylor Hooton Foundation comes in. That’s what we do! We travel the continent speaking to middle schools, high schools, universities and others ringing the warning bell about the terrible dangers that accompany this drug use. Part of that is showing these kids how to achieve their goals and dreams the right way – without the use of steroids and other appearance and performance enhancing drugs.
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