An Objection to Mandatory Drug Testing in High Schools for the Participation of

Extra-Curricular Activities:

Primarily Student Athletes


LA: 401: Science, Technology, and Human Values

Spring, 2004

With the recent steroid a scandal in Major League Baseball, debates over mandatory drug testing polices have sparked interest across the country. One issue that is highly controversial, but has taken a back seat in the in the debate, is the issue of mandatory drug testing policies in high schools. With teenage drug use on the rise in the 90s’ the federal government and the United States Supreme Court gave the green light to mandatory drug testing policies for student athletes and participants of extra-curricular activities. In this paper I hope to prove that mandatory drug testing of student athletes and participants of extra-curricular at the high school level is a well-meaning but wrong-headed approach to teen drug prevention.

Although mandatory drug testing is necessary at the collegiate and professional levels of competition in order to ensure a level playing field among athletes, to preserve the credibility and integrity of the particular sport, and to prevent and protect athletes from drug abuse, mandatory drug testing should be removed at the high school level because mandatory drug testing can have a negative effect on the classroom or team, is a waste of valuable school financial resources, may be a potential barrier to joining extra-curricular activities because drug testing is typically aimed at students who want to participate in those activities, drug tests being used by high schools have been known to give false positives, which could punish innocent students, and may cause several unintended consequences such as: students turning to more dangerous drugs that are not detectable by the tests currently being used, students out smarting the tests, and students learning that they are assumed guilty until they are proven innocent.

Anabolic steroids are, “synthetic substances related to male sex hormones (androgens). They promote growth of skeletal muscle (anabolic effect) and the development of male sexual characteristics (androgenic effects).” Users of anabolic steroids run the risk of stunted bone growth, permanent damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, and a known seventy other major physical and psychological side effects. Currently, anabolic steroids are only legal in the United States by doctor prescription. Doctors use these steroids to treat patients who have developed certain conditions that force the body to produce low amounts of testosterone, such as delay puberty and some types of impotence, and also to treat body wasting in patients with AIDS and other diseases. Finally, anabolic steroids are different from steroidal supplements sold over the counter in the United States, such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione (known as Andro). Users buy theses supplements through commercial sources including health food stores, because they believe the supplements have anabolic effects. This supplement was made popular during Mark McGwire’s record setting home run season and the controversy surround his admittance of using the supplement.

Currently, there are three common drug-testing methods employed by the public school system, they include urinalysis test, hair follicle test, and the use of a sweat patch test. The urinalysis test is the most common test used in high schools, primarily because of its low cost per a test, usually ranging from $10 to $30 per test, however with the relative low cost comes several problems. The first is a urinalysis test cannot detect alcohol or tobacco uses, both are illegal at the high school age. Secondly, by using a urinalysis test a specimen has a possibility of being adulterated. Finally, the urinalysis test is the most invasive of all drug tests because someone must be present when the specimen is collected.

The second method of drug testing used by high schools is the hair follicle test. The hair follicle test is the mot expensive test used by high schools at a cost of $60 to $75 per test. The test is limited to the five basic drug panel, which include marijuana, cocaine, opiate, amphetamines, and PCP. The test cannot detect alcohol use or recent drug use. Even though the hair follicle test is look at to be one of the more reliable drug tests, it does have its share problems. The test tends to be discriminatory: “dark haired people are more likely to test positive than blondes,