Should we test high school athletes?

Question: Should we test high school athletes?

Gary Wadler: Well, one of the things that the Hooten Foundation, which I chair, has done is to really champion drug testing in schools. We’ve had it implemented in the state of Texas. But the word drug testing can be misleading because when we think drug testing in elite athletes, well we think of sanctions. It may not be the reason you do it in high school. It may be part of an educational program, a deterrence program, a program to find kids who have problems, a program to give us a sense of the epidemiology in a particular community, an opportunity to refer kids to health facilities and doctors to take care of this. But there’s two visceral reactions. One, they think immediately of professional sports and two is the cost. And they say well, we’re cutting out all our extracurricular activities because we don’t have it in our budgets to do this. Communities feel this way. And that’s an issue that can be dealt with. But if you put the program together properly, you don’t have to do large volumes, it has to be well constructed and targeted and you probably keep it at a reasonable budget. So I do think it’s not the answer, but I think it’s part of the equation along with education. For example, we don’t have a certification process for coaches in this country, you know? Any dad or mom can go out and, “I’m the coach.” And some of them really don’t have what they need to have to do that job properly and it may result in behaviors which are unfortunate. So do I think testing should be done in the high schools? Yes, but in the context of a well thought out, articulated approach.

Recorded on: 04/25/2008

It should be about deterrence, not punishment, says Wadler.

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