AUSTIN — The company that conducts drug testing for the NCAA, minor league baseball and other sports leagues has been chosen to run Texas’ high school steroids testing program.
The National Center For Drug Free Sport was selected Tuesday to run the largest steroids testing program in the country, testing between 40,000-50,000 public school athletes by the end of the 2008-09 school year.
Testing is expected to begin within days or weeks, although the University Interscholastic League, the governing body of Texas public school sports, declined to set a date.
Patti Ohlendorf, vice president of legal affairs at the University of Texas, which helped draft the contract, said two weeks ago that testing probably would begin in February.
UIL officials said they wanted a contractor with a proven track record of reliability and expertise.
“We look forward to working closely with Drug Free Sport in implementing a first-class steroid testing program that we feel will be a model for other states and organizations to follow,” UIL athletic director Charles Breithaupt said.
Spurred by concerns that young athletes may be taking illegal and potentially dangerous performance-enhancing drugs, state lawmakers in May approved a two-year, $6 million testing program.
Lawmakers wanted testing to start last fall before football season, but delays over the program rules and finding a contractor pushed it back several months.
Based in Kansas City, Mo., Drug Free Sport was created in 1999 by Frank Uryasz, who had been the director of sports sciences for the NCAA.
Uryasz had developed the NCAA’s drug testing program in the 1980s and his company has handled the NCAA program since 1999.
Drug Free Sport tests about 13,000 college athletes annually for the NCAA and has separate contracts with various leagues and about 200 colleges and universities around the country, spokesman Dan Regan said.
It also conducts drug testing of high school athletes in New Jersey and Florida. New Jersey was the first state to conduct random steroid testing of high school athletes and tested 500 athletes in its first year.
Bob Baly, assistant director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, gave Drug Free Sport rave reviews on its handling of testing in his state.
“Extremely professional. It’s not like they haven’t done this before,” Baly said. “They handle students very well. We’ve had no complaints.”
New Jersey’s program, which began in the 2006-2007 school year, tests students who participate in the postseason and must be renewed annually.
In Texas, every one of the approximately 764,000 public school athletes is eligible to be tested, whether their sport is in season or not.
To select athletes for testing, officials will randomly select about 30 percent of schools across the state. The schools provide lists of athletes in all sports. Officials expect about 23,000 students will be tested per year after the 2008-2009 school year.
Agents from Drug Free Sport randomly select athletes from the list and go to the schools to collect urine samples, which are sent to labs for testing. Students won’t know they will be tested until they are pulled from class.
Berwick: No testing for drugs or steroids.
Crestwood: No testing for drugs or steroids.
Holy Redeemer: No testing for drugs or steroids.
Dallas: Yes, random testing for drugs, including steroids.
Hanover Area: No response.
Hazleton Area: Yes, random testing for drugs, including steroids. First offense: The student-athlete is immediately suspended from playing sports and the parents/guardians are immediately notified. In order to be considered for reinstatement to his/her athletic team, the student must enter a mandatory drug/rehab program of his/her choice. Second offense: The student-athlete is suspended from playing sports for the rest of the school year.
Lake-Lehman: No testing for drugs or steroids.
MMI Prep: No testing for drugs or steroids.
Nanticoke Area: No testing for drugs or steroids.
Northwest Area: No testing for drugs or steroids.
Pittston Area: No testing for drugs or steroids.
Tunkhannock: No testing for drugs or steroids.
West Side Tech: No testing for drugs or steroids.
Wyoming Area: No testing for drugs or steroids.
Wyoming Seminary: No testing for drugs or steroids.
Wilkes-Barre Area (Coughlin, GAR, Meyers): No testing for drugs or steroids.