FHSAA Turns Attention to Performance-Enhancing Drugs, Seeks Policy Review to Protect Student-Athletes

By Tamas Mondovics

In the wake of concern over the recent developments involving performance-enhancing drugs in sports, and its possible presence among Florida high school student-athletes, the FHSAA (Florida High School Athletic Association) held a telephone conference call with sports editors and reporters earlier this month.

The conference announced the FHSAA’s aggressive step designed to target PEDs, which are currently prohibited as part of broader FHSAA bylaws and policies addressing sportsmanship.

“Recent news stories have indicated that Florida high school athletes were among those who obtained PEDs for the facility at the heart of the scandal currently affecting Major League Baseball,” Roger Dearing, executive director, Florida High School Athletics Associations said.

Dearing asked the association’s 15-member Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to conduct a thorough review of existing standards to determine how they can be strengthened to stop the trend of PED use among professional and college athletes from spreading throughout prep sports.

While noting that under existing FHSAA bylaws and policies, student-athletes can be suspended from competing if they have used PEDs, Dearing suggested that these prohibitions may be insufficient and pushed for stronger measures.

“The FHSAA’s overriding priority is the safety, well-being and constructive development of young student-athletes whose bodies and character are still forming,” Dearing said. “Performance-enhancing drugs undermine every aspect of this goal and so it is imperative that our student-athletes adhere to a zero tolerance policy.”

As a bottom line, Dearing emphasized that school districts simply cannot tolerate coaches who encourage or look the other way when athletes use PEDs. “These coaches cannot be allowed to keep their jobs or have anything to do with young athletes. This is about more than safeguarding fair play–it’s about saving lives.”

Also on hand to answer questions was Sen. Bill Montford, chief executive officer, Florida Association of District School Superintendents, and former school principal and superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Roth Maynard, assistant professor of family and sports medicine, Mayo Clinic (Jacksonville), and member, FHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

“Performance-enhancing drugs pose a very real, very dangerous threat to high school student-athletes, both physically and psychologically,” Montford said. “I commend the FHSAA for being proactive in addressing the challenge presented by coaches, parents and young athletes who want to get ahead by any means possible, whatever the personal cost.”

Maynard agreed when she emphasized that most young athletes have no idea the harm that can be caused by performance-enhancing drugs. “Teenagers are still developing, both physically and mentally, and PEDs have no place in their lives. Whatever the FHSAA can do to stop PEDs from being used by high school student-athletes is a step in the right direction.”

A number of questions addressed the cost and funding of random PED testing of students who raise a red flag of reasonable suspicion.

Montford agreed that while turning to local organizations and community sponsors for funding their district schools is the way to approach the issue of testing costs, Florida should at also least be aware of the issue.

“This should be on everybody’s radar, and be supportive of their school districts,” he said. ‘This is a statewide issue. Putting the pressure on the coaches and the student-athletes that the testing is out there will be a good deterrent.”

A listing of members of the FHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is available at www.fhsaa.org/gov/sportsmed