Random Drug Testing of High School Athletes

Has  Your High School Athlete Been Chosen?

My daughter Tory’s high school softball team played another “States” sectional game on Tuesday. Last Friday, her coach told the team to report to the Athletic Director’s (AD) office on Monday morning. Tory told me that when she arrived two officials from the state athletic association were in the AD’s office along with the rest of the varsity team. After the officials explained what the gathering was about, they took out a piece of paper and called out the names of six players on the varsity roster; these six would have to submit to the random drug testing. No parents were notified ahead of time or up until this blog posting that their daughters might be/were drug tested.

As background, please know that at the beginning of their athletic season players and parents are required to sign a form giving permission to have a random drug test performed on the athlete if the team makes it to a State tournament game. If you don’t sign the form, your athlete is not allowed to play, at all, in any high school game.

“NJSIAA STEROID TESTING POLICY CONSENT TO RANDOM TESTING

“In Executive Order 72, issued December 20, 2005, Governor Richard Codey directed the New Jersey Department of Education to work in conjunction with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to develop and implement a program of random testing for steroids, of teams and individuals qualifying for championship games.

“Any student-athlete who possesses, distributes, ingests or otherwise uses any of the banned substances on the attached page, without written prescription by a fully-licensed physician, as recognized by the American Medical Association, to treat a medical condition, violates the NJSIAA’s sportsmanship rule, and is subject to NJSIAA penalties, including ineligibility from competition. The NJSIAA will test certain randomly selected individuals and teams that qualify for a state championship tournament or state championship competition for banned substances. The results of all tests shall be considered confidential and shall only be disclosed to the student, his or her parents and his or her school. No student may participate in NJSIAA competition unless the student and the student’s parent/guardian consent to random testing. (my emphasis here)

“By signing below, we consent to random testing in accordance with the NJSIAA steroid testing policy. We understand that, if the student or the student’s team qualifies for a state championship tournament or state championship competition, the student may be subject to testing for banned substances.

Signature of Student-Athlete                  Print Student-Athlete’s Name                  Date

Signature of Parent/Guardian                  Print Parent/Guardian’s Name                  Date

June, 2008”

Okay, I understand that. And I signed the form, as did Tory.  We didn’t think too much about it, and when Tory heard “rumors” last Friday that a drug test might be performed on Monday, she shrugged it off and went about her life. Guess what? She was one of six athletes chosen to be tested.

The six athletes chosen included two newly “pulled up” freshman players,  a sophomore, one junior and two seniors. Of the players chosen two are “starting varsity team” players. I have since learned that “random” refers to the timing of the test, not how the athletes are chosen.

According to Tory, the players were escorted by a female high school security guard and a female official from the NJSIAA one by one down the main hall of the high school to the girls’ bathroom. The official entered the bathroom with each girl while the guard locked the door and remained outside. The official put some blue dye in the toilet (to prevent the player from diluting her urine with toilet water) and asked that the stall door not be locked while the player peed in a beaker. The player then capped the beaker and carried her urine back down the main hall of the high school to the room where the other selected players and male NJSIAA official were waiting. Once back in the room the player was told to open the beaker, then the male official divided her urine into two beakers and immediately tested one beaker of urine for specific gravity, temperature, and the hydration level of the athlete. After that he took the untested beaker of urine, put it into a box and asked the athlete to seal it. The last athlete of the six got to watch this process for the five athletes who got tested before her and then herself.

Tory doesn’t rattle easily, nor is she quick to anger.  She called me after the process was completed and said, “That was the most humiliating thing I’ve ever had to do. I had to walk through the main hall of my high school carrying my urine and escorted by a high school security guard and an official from the NJSIAA.”

She said students stared at her. She said the news spread very quickly. Tory said when she attended her afternoon classes she was asked by friends and acquaintances why she was being tested for drugs. The students had either seen or heard about the escorts, has either seen or heard about the urine samples and were generally curious.

I guess it’s okay though since

The results of all tests shall be considered confidential and shall only be disclosed to the student, his or her parents and his or her school.

Many adults would shrug off the urine carrying part of this story as no big deal. Let me tell you, though, that some female teenagers don’t. They don’t like being made into a public spectacle. They don’t like looking “guilty.” A large portion of the student population either saw or heard about the six being tested.  Some of the athletes walked the hall during class changes.

Is this process really "confidential?"

If random drug testing is an important part of playing in “States,” then these athletes should have been given what I would consider true confidentiality.

Strike 1: The AD and NJSIAA officials should not have had the entire team present when they called out the names of the six to be tested. The athletes should have been called in individually, told individually, and either tested or released individually.  That’s confidential, at least to me.

Strike 2: Being escorted by a high school security guard and an NJSIAA to use the public toilet located at the opposite end of a very long main high school hallway is not very confidential. A private bathroom should have been secured or at least a closer “holding room” to the public toilet to avoid the main hall walk for each athlete. The nurse’s office has a private toilet. Other areas of the high school do too. And the AD knew last Friday that the testing would occur.

Strike 3: What if? What if one or more of the athletes tested has a banned substance in her body? Is this when the “confidentiality” part of the agreement kicks in? After you’ve been named in front of the rest of your team? After you’ve been escorted through your high school hallways carrying your urine and accompanied by state and local officials? After many students in the general population of your school know which six athletes were tested?

What is “confidential?” And is this process handled the same “confidential” way at other high schools?

P.S. Tory’s team beat a very good opponent in the semifinals on Tuesday and will advance to sectional finals play on Friday. The random drug test results will be available in two weeks.

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Filed under Random Drug Testing of High School Athletes, softball

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