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More than 10,000 tested for steroids; only two come up positive

An unreleased preliminary report by the UIL shows that only two high school athletes have tested positive during the first wave of random statewide testing for anabolic steroids, said a staffer for one Texas legislator.

A two-year mandatory steroid testing program was signed into state law in June 2007. So far, 10,407 athletes at 195 schools have been tested in a program that didn’t launch until after the 2007 football season.

Jenni Franks, chief of staff for Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, confirmed Tuesday that the UIL contacted Flynn’s office five weeks ago with the preliminary results. Flynn co-sponsored the steroid bill.

Speaking for Flynn, Franks said the low number of positive tests so far are proof that steroid use can be deterred through a fear of being caught.

“It’s evidence that by testing, it’s a threat sent to those student athletes,” Franks said. “They’re less likely to use steroids if they believe there’s a chance they can be one of those tested.”

The UIL penalty for a first positive test is a 30-day suspension. A second positive results in a one-year suspension. Permanent loss of high school eligibility results from a third positive.

UIL assistant athletic director Mark Cousins contacted Flynn with the preliminary results. Cousins said Tuesday the UIL won’t comment until the final report by Drug Free Sport, which administers the tests, is complete. That is expected in a few weeks, he said.

The taxpayer-funded $6 million program is expected to test around 45,000 athletes in two years but has yet to test football players before or in season. Several were tested during off-season workouts, but the total tested in that sport should rise sharply.

Franks said the UIL didn’t reveal which sport(s) had the two positives or how many athletes per sport were tested.

State-mandated testing passed easily in the Texas House and Senate, with only seven legislators voting no. Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, was among those who opposed it, but his office had no comment on Tuesday.

The two positives represent .00019 percent of those tested, though Franks said she was told several samples are being retested because of “confusing” results. Both of the positives, she was told, were absolutes.

“It’s at least two,” she said. “That number will not go down.”

Depending on how lawmakers view such a low instance of positives could determine future funding. Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said in Tuesday’s Houston Chronicle that so far, $1.5 million has been spent per positive result, a “ludicrous” waste of funding. Patrick also opposed state-mandated testing.

Franks countered, saying that for Flynn, steroids testing “wasn’t just something he felt like doing.” In 2006, Flynn sat on a committee that presented a report on steroid use among Texas athletes. That report, which included a 2002 Texas A&M survey that found 42,000 athletes had used steroids, was the basis for testing becoming law.

“People were coming to us and saying ‘my child died because of steroids,’ or ‘my child was damaged by steroids,’” Franks said. “There were four years of studies and focus on this before it happened.”

Aledo football coach Tim Buchanan and Crowley coach Brad McCone interpreted the low number of positives as solid deterrence of steroid use. Both though, say, the No. 1 local concern to coaches, parents and administrators is illegal street drugs.

Until testing for those are done, the problem of all banned substances won’t be solved.

“Anytime you can drug-test, it’s positive,” Buchanan said. “I’ve been around athletes for 25 years and suspected three kids of using steroids. If I had to pick one of the two, I’d prefer testing for recreational drugs.”

Said McCone: “If out of 10,000 we have two positives for steroids, then imagine what a test for street drugs could deter. That’s a battle we’re losing. You can’t talk about it until you’re blue in the face, but until you or the law catches them, you can’t do anything without proof. It would be money well spent.”

By the numbers 10,407 athletes in Texas tested for steroids

195 of 400 high schools in the program so far

6 million dollars to be spent over two years on testing

2 positive tests according to preliminary results

1.5 million dollars spent so far per positive test