ROBBINSVILLE, NJ — The results are in for NJSIAA’s 2016-17 random steroid testing program for New Jersey’s scholastic athletes. Of the 502 male and female student-athletes tested, one was found to be positive for any of 80 banned substances, including anabolic steroids.
The athletes tested under the annual NJSIAA program — all of whom were drawn from teams that qualified for state tournaments — were from six boys and seven girls sports, and represent 69 different member high schools. The program was established in 2006 and one of the first in the nation.
“The more students we’re able to test, the more information we’ll have about the scope of drug problem, and the better positioned we’ll be to halt it,” said Steve Timko, NJSIAA executive director, regarding the program that’s co-funded annually by NJSIAA and the state of New Jersey, with each contributing $50,000. “It’s terrific that only one student tested positive this year, but we really need the means of testing more broadly to better assess the level of substance abuse. In particular, we’re looking to test for opioids, given the current epidemic.”
The cost-per-test is approximately $200, a price that impacts efforts to expand the scope of annual testing.
The NJSIAA is already active in addressing the opioid crisis as it relates to student-athletes, a particularly at-risk demographic. The association, along with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, is supporting the Garden State Pharmacy Owners’ SOAP (Stop Opioid Abuse Program) initiative, which is focused on sharing vital, relevant information with scholastic athletes.
“Ideally, rather than limiting our testing to the tournaments, we’d have random testing year-round,” Timko added. “This would give us a broader perspective of what’s going on, since not all athletes and not all programs qualify for championship play. But, without additional financial support, that isn’t possible.”
That support has been proposed, in the form of new legislation, but has never been approved.
“We need to expand this program to further strengthen steroid abuse testing,” explained Sen. Richard Codey. “We’ve been very close to providing additional funding, but a bill I co-sponsored several years ago was not passed. That was certainly a missed opportunity to improve the health and safety of student-athletes across our state.”
Of the students tested by NJSIAA during the 2016-17 school year, 356 were boys and 146 were girls. Boys were tested in six different sports: football (194 tests), baseball (60 tests), basketball (30 tests), winter track (12 tests), soccer (24 tests), and lacrosse (36 tests). Girls also were tested in seven different sports: softball (30 tests), basketball (24 tests), field hockey (24 tests), swimming (30 tests), soccer (24 tests), winter track (12 tests), and spring track (2 tests).
Under program rules, all scholastic athletes must accept the possibility of a test by signing a consent form prior to the start of their season. Any student who tests positive automatically forfeits one year of athletic eligibility.
The test utilized by NJSIAA is a urinalysis, and can identify more than 80 banned substances. Athletes randomly selected for testing are chosen by a National Center for Drug-Free Sport computer program and are analyzed by the Los Angeles Olympic Analytical Laboratory, at the University of California, Los Angeles — the same lab utilized by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) for its testing needs.
As a component of the annual testing program, the NJSIAA provides student-athletes, parents and coaches access to an online site — www.drugfreesport.com/rec — that will identify whether or not a particular athletic supplement contains any ingredients not approved by the association. The typical response time for an inquiry is within 48 business hours.