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High School Athletic Associations Examine Steroid Rules

The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) has begun to review its policies on performance-enhancing drugs (PED) after several of its athletes were connected to a steroid scandal that led to the suspensions of 13 Major League Baseball players.

Now schools across the country could begin to follow suit.

According to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) handbook, Pennsylvania Act 1989-93 requires every state school board to adopt and enforce rules and regulations to prohibit the use of PEDs like steroids.

Melissa Mertz, associate executive director for the PIAA, said the association does have guidelines on the use PEDs, but does not mandate drug tests.

“The testing is up to each individual school,” Mertz said. “It’s a very expensive testing procedure. It’s left up to the authorities, it’s left up to the individual schools to make sure that it’s not happening in their school systems, but if it is then they do have to prescribe to what’s listed here (in the handbook).”

A standard urinalysis test costs around $200 per person. In 2009, Florida administered 600 steroid tests, and one came back positive, according to the Association Against Steroid Abuse.

The FHSAA began looking into its rules on PEDs after its athletes were said to have connections with Biogenesis, a clinic accused of distributing banned performance enhancers.

Mertz said the PIAA looks to its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to update its rules and regulations.

“We’ll rely heavily on them, their physicians and sports medicine personnel throughout the state, and that’s who we get that type of information from,” Mertz said. “We meet with them two times a year, so I’m sure at our next meeting we’ll probably have some discussions about that — what’s taking place in Florida.”

According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, 5 to 12 percent of male high school students and 1 percent of female students will have used anabolic steroids by their senior year.

While a small number of high school students may use steroids and other drugs as performance enhancers, some students rely on them for medical purposes.

Students with growth disorders sometimes take HGH, or Human Growth Hormone — a drug that increases height and muscle and is often abused as a PED.

According to the PIAA, all medications taken by a student need to be documented with the school as well as the athletic association before a sporting season.

“We have a very comprehensive physical evaluation that all students have to have done and any type of medicines that the student is taking has to be listed on this form and that form is kept on file at every school,” Mertz said.

If a student is found to be using any undocumented steroids or any other PEDs partway through an athletic season, the PIAA handbook has three minimum penalties.

For a first violation, the student is suspended from athletics for the remainder of the season. If a second incident occurs, that student is suspended for two seasons, and on a third violation, a permanent suspension from all school athletics.

“I don’t think that it’s anything that anybody takes lightly or just thinks, ‘oh well, yeah it’s there,’” Mertz said. “I think they take it very seriously because it’s state law and it’s one that we have to make sure it’s stated in our eligibility rules.”