Former Gov. Richard J. Codey made New Jersey the first state in the country to test student athletes for steroids in 2005. Now he wants to make that testing permanent.
Under a bill sponsored by Codey (D-Essex and Morris), now a state senator, random steroid testing would be written into state law, and both coaches and schools would be required to increase their antidrug efforts.
“Coaches are role models and mentors, and they are best positioned to teach about the dangers of steroids and identify abuse early and help put a stop to it,” Codey said in a statement. He issued an executive order in December 2005 requiring random testing for students participating in championship tournaments, based on the recommendations of a task force he had appointed to examine the issue.
Under the program, 500 students who qualify to participate in tournaments are randomly chosen for testing. The launch of testing came at a time of increasing national attention to the issue, following a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey that indicated 5.8 percent of ninth-graders had used steroids.
However, concern over the issue has since ebbed, with only three other states — Florida, Illinois and Texas — launching statewide random steroid testing, and Florida ended its program after few positive test results were found.
In New Jersey, school athletic officials have said that less than 1 percent of students have had positive test results.
But Codey said the state must give student athletes “all of the resources and support they need to ‘just say no’ to using steroids and performance-enhancing supplements that not only amount to cheating, but also can lead to serious medical complications later in life.”
The bill, S-1857/A-2699, requires all coaches to incorporate a gender-specific program designed to reduce the use of steroids and performance-enhancing supplements, as well as alcohol and drugs, into their teams’ training activities. They would also be required to promote healthy nutrition and exercise. School district athletic directors would be required to approve these programs.
In addition, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association would be required to implement a program informing all public and private high school coaches and athletic directors about steroid prevention. The NJSIAA would also be expected to provide anti-steroid and anti-performance-enhancing-supplement advertisements in any material distributed at a tournament. Further, it would establish the third week of September as Steroid Awareness Week and require school districts to organize activities to raise awareness of the hazards of the substances.
The CDC cautions that steroids can lead to stunted growth; harm to cholesterol levels; mood swings; and increases in feelings of hostility and aggressive behavior. For boys, it can lead to development of breasts and the shrinkage and loss of function of testicles, and for girls, it can lead to the growth of facial and body hair, a deepened voice, breast reduction and menstrual irregularities. Since 1991, anabolic steroids have been a federal controlled substance and possession of the drugs is illegal.
The bill is gathering broad support. It was passed by the state Senate on June 30 by a 36-0 vote, and the New Jersey School Boards Association; the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association; and the New Jersey Association of School Administrators back it.
The Assembly version of the measure, sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), has been referred to the Assembly Education Committee.