IHSA approves random steroid tests for student-athletes

February 11, 2008 10:26:08 AM PST
Students who want to play on Illinois high school sports teams will have to pass more than physical tests. They will now have to submit to random drug tests.Illinois has become the fourth state in the country to mandate random drug testing for every high school athlete.

But for almost 20 years, student athletes at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Chicago's south suburbs have been randomly tested for drugs. Back in 1989, the school made national headlines as being the first in Illinois and one of the first in the country to adopt a drug testing program. While it was controversial years ago, the policy has become a popular one.

"It's worked out well for us. Our students believe in it and parents and our community supports it. And we're going to continue it," said Dr. Von Mansfield, Homewood-Flossmoor's principal.

Now, Homewood-Flossmoor does not have a choice but to continue it. The Illinois High School Association is requiring every high school athlete in the state to submit to a drug test.

"We need to be in the forefront of educating our student athletes on what to do and what not to do," said IHSA board member Anthony Rainey.

While the IHSA has been working on the policy for a couple years, voting on it comes just a week after Olympic track star Marion Jones was sentenced to jail for lying about her use of steroids.

IHSA board member Anthony Rainey says steroid use among high school students in Illinois is not a major problem, but it is a problem.

"We figure three out of every 100 athletes, so across the state it is an issue," said Rainey, who is also the principal, athletic director and coach at Luther South High School on the city's South Side.

Given the competition for athletic scholarships these days, steroid use does not come as a surprise to Rainey. His student athletes say they have no objections to random drug testing.

"And the body you want, you have to work hard for it. Just exercise, eat healthy. Taking drugs is not the way to go," said student athlete Chelsea Aldridge.

The details of the program will be worked out next month, and will include a list of all the substances to be tested.

The American Civil Liberties Union does not expect to challenge the legality of the testing program. In 1995, the Supreme Court ruled that it is constitutional for high school athletes to be subjected to random drug tests.