Miami-Dade Schools

Biogenesis scandal prompts drug-testing proposal for Miami-Dade schools

 

dsmiley@MiamiHerald.com

Allegations that a Coral Gables clinic at the center of a Major League Baseball doping scandal also provided drugs to high school athletes could lead the Miami-Dade school district to consider drug-testing for students involved in extracurricular activities.

School Board member Raquel Regalado wants the district to establish a random drug-testing policy, and board members could approve a cost and feasibility study for such a program next week. Regalado said drug testing is appropriate considering the federal probe into whether Biogenesis of America gave performance-enhancing drugs to student athletes.

“I don’t see it as controversial. I think it’s responsible,” Regalado said. “Whether we’re on [the list] or not, it’s an issue every district should be talking about.”

The Biogenesis scandal has led to lengthy suspensions of multiple pro baseball players, including University of Miami star Ryan Braun and homegrown superstar Alex Rodriguez. With regard to high school athletes, whistleblower and former Biogenesis employee Porter Fischer has said teenagers frequented the clinic in the company of their parents. He met this month with a federal grand jury in Miami-Dade County and has been ordered to turn over clinic documents in his possession.

The Miami Herald has seen a partial list of alleged clients of Biogenesis from October 2011. On it are two local high school ballplayers — from private schools — who are now seniors, and five other players from Miami-Dade and Broward who are now in college.

“I’m very concerned. This [clinic] is less than a mile and a half from Coral Gables Senior High,” Regalado said.

Her proposal has the support of the Florida High School Athletic Association, the state’s governing body for high school sports. Executive Director Roger Dearing has called for greater attention from school districts to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

But more importantly, Regalado needs support of a majority of School Board members, who gave her pitch a lukewarm reception Wednesday at a committee meeting. Among their concerns: the potential for racial profiling of black athletes; and funding tests that, when the FHSAA conducted 600 of them in 2007-08, cost $166 a pop.

“My first feeling dealt with the profiling, and also the number of African-American youth who are in these competitive sports and the implication of what might also come about as a result of this testing,” said board member Wilbert “Tee’ Holloway.

Still, none of Regalado’s colleagues said they opposed her proposal. Daniel Tosado, chief of staff for Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, said the conversation about drug testing and awareness is worth having.

Regalado said Miami-Dade Schools last had a drug-testing policy in 1981. She said the School Board approved a pilot drug-testing program in 1997, which was ditched after funding ran out. The FHSAA stopped conducting tests five years ago after a grant ran dry.

Regalado said she’s not asking the district to fund the program, which would include all extracurricular activities. She said donors are willing to fund its first year.

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