Florida never seems to run out of bad ideas when it comes to urine testing.
Gov. Rick Scott, who was in the urinalysis business before being elected, displayed his urine farming zeal by trying to institute mandatory drug testing on welfare recipients and all state employees. Both efforts were deemed unconstitutionally flawed by federal courts.
And so now, we’re looking into urine testing kids. In particular, those who play high school sports.
The impetus for this new effort is that the now-defunct Miami lab that allegedly provided performance-enhancing drugs to Alex Rodriguez and other Major League Baseball players also had some local high school athletes as clients, according to a former employee.
In the wake of that news, Roger Dearing, the executive director of the Florida High School Athletic Association, announced this month that the time has come to start drug testing the state’s high school athletes for performance-enhancing drugs.
The association’s medical advisory committee has been given the job to devise a program. But there is already a key constraint: The state Legislature’s not going to pay for any of it.
Somebody’s got to.
Mandatory urine testing of the 283,000 students participating in Florida high school sports would cost about $42 million a year, Dearing estimated. So rather than do that, Dearing has proposed a more targeted approach by using unspecified local funding to pay for drug testing only of those student-athletes who are “under suspicion” for steroid use.
What exactly qualifies as “under suspicion” ought to raise red flags in the adults-behaving-badly world of youth sports. I would imagine that every star athlete and winning team would be hounded for urine samples on a regular basis.
This will bring new meaning to the words “bowl game.”
But putting that aside, consider the economics.
Six years ago, the Florida Legislature set aside $100,000 for an FHSAA pilot program to test randomly for performance-enhancing drugs in the state’s high schools.
As part of that program, the FHSAA randomly tested 600 student-athletes in 53 high schools across the state. About two-thirds of those tested were football players, and the rest were boys baseball players, girls softball players and both boys and girls wrestlers.
The local schools that were part of that testing program included Boca Raton High School, Boynton Beach High School, Glades Day School, Santaluces High School and Wellington High School. Without notice, students were pulled from their classes and escorted to the gym, where they had to provide urine samples.
The cost to test those 600 students worked out to be $166 per test. And the result of all this testing was that only one of the 600 students tested positive for steroids.
The unnamed school for that student appealed the result, and the student was reinstated to the athletic program three months later after completing a drug-education program and providing a clean urine sample.
If those results are any indication of what’s to come, drug testing high school athletes is going to be a boon to the state’s urine farmers and a burden to local schools or school districts, which will be left figuring out ways to pay for a fortune in tests that almost always come back negative.
And those student-athletes you see now holding car washes to pay for team trips may someday be offering to wash your car to pay for the team’s urine-testing bill.