Plan to drug test Miami-Dade student athletes stalls

Anthony “Tony” Bosch, right, leaves the C. Clyde Atkins Federal Courthouse after posting bail in August 2014.
Anthony “Tony” Bosch, right, leaves the C. Clyde Atkins Federal Courthouse after posting bail in August 2014. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

On the heels of a confession by a phony South Florida doctor that he had provided performance-enhancing drugs to high school athletes, Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho ordered up a random drug testing program.

More than a year after the highly publicized announcement, the program has yet to get off the ground.

“We’ve just been trying to figure out how to do it,” said school board member Raquel Regalado, who first proposed the drug-testing.

We’ve just been trying to figure out how to do it.

Raquel Regalado, school board member

After the Miami Herald began asking questions about the program, district spokesman John Schuster said a workshop would be held on the issue “in the weeks ahead.”

“We’re dealing with a very sensitive issue here. We need to make sure it’s done absolutely precisely — ethically, legally and respectfully,” he said.

The revelations of Anthony Bosch rocked major league baseball — but also high school sports. Bosch admitted to supplying steroids, testosterone and human growth hormones to the likes of baseball star Alex Rodriguez and also teenagers.

Bosch’s Biogenesis of America clinic was in Coral Gables, in close proximity to public high schools. So Regalado proposed in September 2013 that the district study the feasibility of a random drug testing program. Regalado said parents were concerned.

“It opened up a broader conversation about the accessibility of these steroids for these teens,” she said.

The feasibility study was completed by November 2013, according to a district memo. In August 2014, on the same day Bosch admitted to providing steroids to student athletes, the district publicized that the feasibility study was done.

Carvalho said the district would allocate $73,000 to test students for steroids, and that a vendor would be selected to carry out the testing. But the district did not provide any documentation that a bid was ever issued, and the money sits untouched, according to Schuster, the district spokesman.

According to the district’s study, it would actually cost up to $2.3 million to drug test all of the district’s 15,000 student athletes. Random tests, at $119 to $155 each, would run much less.

It’s not clear what held up the program. About a month after the school board approved the measure, an email shows that employees in the district’s operations department asked school district lawyers for a legal review of a proposed consent form, program description and school board item approving the drug testing program.

School board attorney Walter Harvey responded, “We approve.”

The district did not explain what happened from there.

Roger Dearing, executive director of the Florida High School Athletic Association, said it has been well-established in Supreme Court cases that random drug testing of student athletes is legal. Dearing said random drug testing already happens in some Florida schools, with outside partners sometimes helping foot the bill. Another issue: deciding which drugs to test for.

“I think the local community has to have the leeway to make those decisions about whatever is best for their children,” he said.

600 students drug tested in statewide program

1 student tested positive

Historically, drug testing students has yielded few positive findings. In 2007-2008, the Legislature created a pilot program involving 600 students in five sports at 53 schools. Only one student tested positive.

Regalado said it’s still worth-while to move forward.

“We’re not doing the testing to bust kids who are doing drugs. We’re doing the testing to discourage kids from using,” she said.

Christina Veiga: 305-376-2029, @cveiga