TALLAHASSEE - Concerned about growing steroid use at the high school level, a House panel voted Monday to require random drug testing for prep athletes.
The Subcommittee on Pre-K through 12 moved a bill (HB 861) to the full Education K-20 Committee that would require schools to test at least 5 percent of the student athlete population on a random basis. A similar measure (SB 1838) is also moving in the Senate.
The proposal, approved 5-0 in the subcommittee, is sponsored by Rep. Marcelo Llorente, R-Miami, a former collegiate baseball player at Tulane University.
"I saw a good bit of it," Llorente said, referring to steroid abuse. "I know it's an issue. Young students don't understand the long-lasting effects ... from cardiovascular damage, liver damage."
"There are a lot of kids out there in the spirit of competition who will do anything to be a starter, or win a championship and harm themselves for the rest of their lives," said Rep. Rafael Arza, R-Miami, the committee chairman.
The bill also has the support of the Department of Education. "We're trying to get ahead of the game," said Paula Shea, DOE's director of governmental affairs.
There was no public testimony Monday opposing the bill.
Congress also has taken a keen interest in performance drugs since officials from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative were charged with participating in a ring that provided steroids to pro athletes.
The National Football League already bans steroid use and the NCAA has a zero-tolerance standard in its testing. A student athlete who fails an NCAA drug exam is disqualified for a full calendar year. During the NCAA basketball tournaments, athletes can be tested randomly following any game.