Steroid penalties, appeals firmed up

Athletes who want to appeal a positive test from the state's pilot steroids testing program may have to help foot the bill.

Published July 19, 2007

Athletes who want to appeal a positive test from the state's pilot steroids testing program may have to help foot the bill.

The ramifications of House Bill 461, which will randomly test 1 percent of athletes in football, baseball and weightlifting, were discussed Monday with the selected testing agency, National Center for Drug Free Sport.

Details of the program will be ironed out by the end of the month, but the penalties and appeals process have been tentatively agreed upon.

Athletes with positive tests will be suspended from practice and competition in all sports for 90 days, which begins the day the school is notified. There will be an exit test after the 60th school day, which if negative, will reinstate the athlete immediately. If not, the suspension sticks.

Athletes testing positive have two appeal opportunities. They can appeal the suspension with Florida High School Athletic Association commissioner John Stewart or if necessary the board of directors. Or athletes can appeal the finding and have their "B" sample tested.

If negative, suspension ceases and the FHSAA pays for the test. If positive, the athlete remains suspended, with the undetermined fee for the "B" sample test falling on the athlete's family or school.

One reason is funding. The FHSAA's state-appropriated budget of $100,000 will enable around 570 athletes to be tested, at a yet-to-be-decided price estimated at $175, FHSAA assistant communications director Robert Hernberger said.

According to participation figures gathered by the FHSAA, 214,274 athletes played high school sports 58,913 in the three sports targeted for testing in the 2005-06 season, though that does not take into consideration athletes who played more than one sport.

Students in grades 9-12 will be randomly selected, likely by computer, Hernberger said. That means, in football, anyone from a backup JV running back to star quarterback could be picked. Tests will be done on campus and sent to a lab in Los Angeles, with results coming anywhere from 10 days to two weeks.

Those with positive tests won't retroactively be deemed ineligible, meaning games they played in would not be forfeited, Hernberger said.

Last week, the FHSAA announced flag football and softball will be tested because they are compatible with the male sports written in the bill. But Hernberger said Wednesday it's still "up in the air" whether those sports will be included.

"We have the responsibility to at least bring up the gender equity point for discussion," Hernberger said. "If Rep. (Marcelo) Llorente or the attorney general don't feel like that it's necessary to proceed with those and wants to pull back and concentrate on (football, baseball and weightlifting), at least we brought it up."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8129.