Out of the preliminary findings, two positive tests resulted from more than 10,000 tests conducted by the National Center for Drug Free Sports and the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory. But the law's primary purpose is to prevent our children from turning to steroids by providing a deterrent – the risk of getting caught gives our kids a solid reason to say no.
Consider speed traps on highways. Many adults and teens drive the speed limit not because they know that doing such is safer and saves fuel, but because they know someone is watching – the fear of getting caught is greater than the desire to disobey the law. What happens when you take away the speed traps? People start breaking the law.
Whether the program yielded two positives, 400 positives or 1,000 positives, no one should be drawing conclusions about the extent of steroid use based on these preliminary lab results. The program was never designed to measure steroid use among high school athletes.
According to the statistics from the 2007 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, recognized as the premier organization in this field, 3.9 percent of high school students are abusing anabolic steroids nationally. Given that 10,407 students were tested in Texas in the past year, the results should have yielded at least 400 positive tests. Based on the preliminary results that we've read about, what we do know is:
• The random testing preliminary results of Texas students identified that 99.98 percent of the sampled student-athletes tested clean for performance-enhancing drugs.
• At least two kids are going to get help before something tragic happens. (I can only wish that my son had been "caught" and been able to receive help.)
• Ten thousand kids know firsthand that we are taking this issue seriously here in Texas.
• Millions of Texas families now know about the dangers of anabolic steroids.
Those results are, to me, an excellent definition of success.
The speed trap analogy is a particularly poor one. If officers only gave tickets at 2 out of every 10,000 traffic stops, there'd be scarce incentive to continue them. Speed traps make money because traffic violations are a lot more common than that.
Also, even if the "program was never designed to measure steroid use among high school athletes," the results are more directly probative than a survey that merely asks verbally about steroid use. The size of the sample is quite large and Texas specific. I don't think we can rely on that 3.9% figure based on these results - certainly not if next year's round of steroid testing duplicates the lower number.
I'll agree with Hooton the program served a short-term public relations benefit, but that has already been realized. Now the public relations message is actually being undermined by extremely de minimus results.
To the extent steroid abuse is a widespread problem, these data show the main nexus of its use does not lie with high school athletes. That means education and prevention resources are likely adequate for that population and enforcement spending (the 10,000 tests cost $3 million) should be reserved for groups where testing gets more bang for its buck.