Miami-Dade's New High School Steroid Testing Plan Is a Joke
Two weeks ago, Biogenesis clinic founder Tony Bosch and six others were indicted and charged with, among other things, selling steroids to at least 18 local high school athletes. The very next day, Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced with a flourish a new pilot program to drug test for local high school athletes.
Tony Bosch has admitted to selling steroids to at least 18 high school athletes in Miami.
Too bad the new rules are a farce unlikely to cause any kind of change. The reason: The county has allocated a comically tiny $73,000 for the program. Even the best-funded high school -testing of performance-enhancing drugs is counterproductive, some advocates say, because the easy-to-beat screenings obscure the number of kids actually using.
"You're not only wasting money, you're doing more harm than good," says Don Hooton, who runs the Taylor Hooton Foundation, a group named for his son, a high school pitcher who killed himself after taking steroids. "No one will test positive except for one idiot, and then the superintendent and coaches and parents can walk away and say, 'See, there wasn't a steroid problem at all!' "
In addition, the state has instituted new rules that are dependent on tips, but New Times has learned only six have been filed in the past five years, resulting in no action at the state level.
It seems school leaders and coaches have taken the wrong lesson from Biogenesis' high school scandal. Education programs about the dangers of PEDs, not useless testing policies or token rule changes, should be the focus, Hooton says. Yet to date, zero new funds have been earmarked for steroid education. "Spend it where it can count -- in educating the coaches, educating the kids, which is not being done," he says.
Hooton wasn't always against youth steroid testing. Taylor's mental illness was accelerated by the steroids he'd taken with his Dallas high school teammates, he says. So after the boy's June 15, 2003 suicide, Don Hooton became a full-time activist fighting the drugs' use by young athletes. One of the first steps he took was to push Texas to institute statewide random testing for high-schoolers. That measure took years to find any traction.
Florida's first foray into statewide steroid testing started in 2007, when then-Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill ordering random tests for high school football, baseball, and weightlifting athletes. That decision came in the wake of the BALCO scandal and just before the investigation by Sen. George Mitchell into Major League Baseball's rampant steroid problems.
The results should have been a warning sign for drug-testing advocates. With a paltry budget from Tallahassee, less than 1 percent of the state's athletes were tested. And of the more than 600 kids tested, only one athlete failed. Crist soon canceled the program.
The next year in Texas, thanks in part to Hooton's lobbying, the Lone Star State began its program. It was better funded than Florida's effort, with $3 million allocated to test more than 10,000 student-athletes. Yet Hooton was shocked at the results. Only 26 kids failed. That's less than 1 percent.