Drugs are not new to the sporting world. Some fans have even begun to accept the fact that drugs and sports seem to go together, particularly in the sport of baseball, which recently grabbed the spotlight because of steroids.
According to ESPN, Major League Baseball started testing for steroids in 2004 after a random, anonymous test in 2003 turned up many players who tested positive for steroids.
Fast forward five years and look at the mess that steroids has made of the game of baseball. According to baseballssteroidera.com, 120 MLB ballplayers have been linked to steroids or human growth hormone (HGH) since testing began in 2004. The names on the list may include players that were locks to get into the Hall of Fame like Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
While no one knows for sure how rampant steroid usage has become for teens in high school and college, the Mitchell Report, which chronicled MLB’s steroid usage, estimated that number is at least in the hundreds of thousands.
TJC Head Baseball Coach Jon Groth said he would fully support steroid testing in junior college sports if it ever became cost effective for schools.
“You wonder how much damage users are doing to their bodies, how they are affecting their long-term health. It’s cheating, and it’s breaking the law,” Groth said.
Groth is not alone in his feelings about illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Mike Marquis, TJC head basketball coach, is also for a uniform steroid testing policy throughout the junior college level.
“I’m more worried about the health aspect of players who are using steroids, the way those drugs affect teens is just not safe,” Marquis said.
There are many reasons athletes choose to take steroids
at the professional level, and while none of them are good, some of the same excuses are being used by high school and college level athletes. They are told steroids are bad, but see bigger, faster, stronger guys out on the field making plays, then turn on a television and see the latest pro ballplayer that has gotten caught with a positive test.
“We [the baseball coaching staff] try to shine a light on the ill effects and consequences of taking steroids to our players,” Groth said.
The reason usage is unknown at the lower levels like college and high school is simple. Athletes know the likelihood of getting caught with steroids is slim because junior colleges and high schools don’t have the funds to test their athletes. The only way they may get caught is if they are careless with their drugs and leave them out for a coach to see.
“The players know we don’t test for steroids. I’ve heard of other coaches telling their guys that they will not be tested, which is taken by the players to mean do whatever it takes to get bigger, stronger, and faster. On the coach’s part, there is no excuse for acting so irresponsible like that,” Groth said.
Even though TJC athletes don’t have to worry about testing positive for steroids, they do have to worry about testing positive for drugs, most commonly marijuana. Dr. Drain explained the college’s drug testing policy for its athletes like this;
Athletes face up to no more than six tests a year, If athletes have a positive test, those specific individuals may be subject to further testing.
A first strike gets that player suspended from play for 28 days (free to practice) and has to attend mandatory counseling.
A second strike earns that player a ban from competition for the entire year, and they must attend counseling.
A third strike spells disaster for any athlete because they are done playing sports for TJC.
All tests are given to the school through a third party who is not affiliated with the school in any way. They are the ones who pick which players will be tested and when those players tests will be issued.
“Strike two and you’re pretty much done for,” Drain said. And while Drain has never had to slap a player with a strike two for positive drug tests in his 10-year tenor as AD, he certainly reserves his right to. “Drug usage is serious business and has never been taken lightly at TJC.”
Drain went on to explain the cost, which is the main reason TJC athletes aren’t susceptible to a steroid test anytime soon. TJC’s current drug test costs $16 a test. Compare that to the test needed for steroids which is around $100 a test.
“We just can’t afford that,” said Drain.
Since blood testing is out of the question, and with the high costs of tests it may be a very long time before we know if junior college sports have become tainted with these performance-enhancing drugs.