Texas Senate passes bill requiring steroid tests in all public schools

AUSTIN (AP) – Texas public school athletes would face mandatory random steroids tests as early as next fall under a Senate bill approved Tuesday that would create the largest high school testing program in the country.

The program would test at least 22,000, about 3 percent, public school athletes. Students who test positive would have to sit out of competition for 30 days, and repeat positive tests could lead to a permanent ban.

“I think this will make high school athletics safer,” said Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, the sponsor of the measure. The bill passed 28-2 and now goes to the House.

The House is considering a similar but less specific measure and could take a vote later Tuesday.

The biggest difference between the two chambers is how to pay for it. The Senate would have the state bear the cost of about $4 million per year, although some experts have said that figure is too low.

The House measure would require the University Interscholastic League, the state’s governing body for high school sports, to assess a fee on sports tickets to pay for the tests.

“I think if we’re going to mandate it, the state should pay for it,” Janek said.

The Texas High School Coaches Association, the Texas Medical Association, and groups representing public school districts and administrators all have testified in support of the Senate version.

Texas has about 733,000 athletes at about 1,300 public schools.

The Senate bill requires all students agree before the season to be tested if selected in order to be eligible to play. Proposed penalties for positive tests include:

Refusal to take a test will be considered a positive test.

A first positive test would bring a suspension of at least 30 days. A second would bring a one-year suspension, followed by the permanent ban for a third.

Only a ban on playing football, basketball or any other sport will discourage athletes from taking performance-enhancing drugs, Janek said.

The bill does not include sanctions for schools whose athletes test positive.

The Senate would also require middle school and high school coaches to complete a training program on the dangers of steroid use, which can include dramatic mood swings, heart disease and cancer.

A state study among 141,000 Texas students in grades 7-12 conducted by Texas A&M University found that steroid use fell from 2 percent in 2004 to 1.5 percent in 2006.

New Jersey was the first state to implement a testing program last year, but it tests only athletes who make the postseason.

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