Now that Major League Baseball has disciplined its dopers, what about the collection of current and former high school players who are on the client list at Biogenesis?
The Florida High School Athletic Association released an email Monday saying it will hold a conference call with sports editors and reporters Tuesday to discuss “an aggressive step designed to target performance-enhancing drug use by student-athletes.”
What does that mean? The association isn’t saying, just yet. But don’t expect too much in the way of cracking down on rule breakers.
Weeding out steroids at the high school level may be a much tougher challenge than busting major leaguers. For one thing, the FHSAA doesn’t have the authority to implement PED-testing unilaterally, and most school districts simply don’t have the funding to follow through with their own testing program.
But there are rule breakers out there, and a federal criminal probe is under way to see if Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch sold controlled substances to high schoolers as well as the pros.
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 set to enter their senior years, and another five players from Miami-Dade and Broward who are now in college.
Even assuming the list is legit, there is nothing the state’s governing body for high school sports can do about it at this time, FHSAA Executive Director Roger Dearing said. “Any time there is a report of a student breaking a rule, we forward that information to the school principal who is charged with overseeing the program and we ask that principal to do their own investigation of the information at hand,” he said. “We don’t have the authority to make you go take a drug test, but the school does. Courts have issued rules that if you have reasonable suspicion — and a policy that drugs are not allowed on your campus — they can require a student athlete to go take a drug test before that student athlete can participate in sports any further. But it’s up to the school district and policy, or the private school policy, to enforce it.”
Thanks to a special grant by the state Legislature, the FHSAA implemented a random PED-testing program during the 2007-2008 school year. A total of 600 student-athletes from 53 schools in five sports — football, girls and boys weightlifting, softball and baseball — were tested at a cost of $105,000. That yielded one positive test of a football player at Glades Day School in Palm Beach County.
The player, who was not named publicly because he was a minor, was reportedly suspended for 90 days. He was reinstated after completing a steroid education program and passing another drug test. Dearing said anyone flunking a similar test today would face similar punishment. But nobody’s testing.
The only other incident in which someone was disciplined in relation to PED use happened in February 2009 when a baseball coach at Jacksonville Wolfson High was dismissed for allegedly dumping Creatine, a non-steroid muscle builder, into the team’s Gatorade jug. The coach was disciplined by the school, not the FHSAA.
“Unless you catch a kid or coach in the act or in possession of PEDs, all you can really do is educate them about the dangers of use,” said Cheryl Golden, executive director of the Greater Miami Athletic Conference, governing body for the public schools in Miami-Dade. “We try and hit the subject hard before the winter and spring sports and at the end of football season. Part of our athletic trainers’ jobs is to talk to kids about it and monitor it,” she said.
Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade superintendent, said that the problem at this time seems more pronounced in the private schools, and that in any event the Legislature has set aside no money for ongoing tests. “There have been conversations in years past [in Tallahassee], but it has never come to fruition,” he said.
A school district could take action on its own. Polk County Athletic Director Don Bridges said his district had a program to test all student athletes for drugs, including 2 percent of them for steroid use, for about six years, thanks to a special grant. No one tested positive for steroids.
“One hundred and fifty dollars a pop was a lot of money,” Bridges said of the steroid testing. “We had some positive results with the [non-steroid] drug testing. After they tested positive, we had them tested each month for 12 months. We never got a second positive test. So we felt it was a positive deterrent.
“Anybody, though, would be stupid to think high school and college kids are not doing the same things the pros are,” Bridges said. “There are definitely PEDs at the high school level. Some kids don’t get as big and as fast as they are these days without taking something. Science just finds a way to mask it. If you’ve got the money, they’ll find a way to sell it to you.”
Miami Herald staff writer David Smiley contributed to this report.