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Steroid testing can never fail, it can only be failed

It’s definition of insanity time.

Don Hooton’s anti-steroid message aimed at young athletes has never been more in demand.

The foundation he started six years ago in the wake of his teenage son’s suicide, attributed to steroid use, has grown to a full-time staff of five. They speak at high schools and colleges across the U.S. and Canada. Annual donations from Major League Baseball and the National Football League to the Taylor Hooton Foundation are scheduled into the middle of the decade.

At the same time, the random steroid testing program for University Interscholastic League athletes in Texas is shrinking. The Legislature initially funded the effort in 2007 with an annual budget of $3 million, but the allotment for the current school year is $750,000 – after a cut to $1 million a year earlier. A total of 4,560 athletes are scheduled to be tested in 2010-11, compared with 35,077 in 2008-09.

While the economic downturn played a role in the reductions, Hooton said he believes state politicians don’t fear steroid use as much as they did when the bill was enacted. That, he said, is because the 51,635 tests done over the last 2 ½ years have resulted in 21 positive tests, two unresolved and 139 not passing for procedure violations, such as unexcused absences. Last spring, all 3,308 tests were clean. Two years ago, Gov. Rick Perry said the results to date indicated the funding might have been excessive.

Hooton said the results of the testing, done for the UIL by Drug Free Sport of Kansas City, Mo., don’t accurately measure steroid use among the state’s high school athletes.

“Those people who read the results as proof we never had a steroid problem in the first place, we just gave them all the ammunition in the world,” said Hooton, who runs the foundation out of his McKinney home. “We’re going to budget this down to defeating the purpose of the program.”

So we’ve spent millions of dollars testing thousands of high school athletes for steroids, and caught only a handful of actual steroid users. And the recommended solution is apparently to spend millions more doing more testing. For what purpose, I couldn’t say.

Delaware is one of a handful of states that considered starting steroid testing but declined. Kevin Charles, executive director of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, said the state passed in part because of concern about cheating.

“The cost didn’t seem to make the bang worth the buck because testing was so easily beaten,” Charles said. “We had a real good presentation by a medical intern on how easily one can beat drug testing.”

And, Hooton said, his contacts in the federal Drug Enforcement Administration say new steroids coming from China can’t yet be detected by the U.S. testing.

In good budget times, this would be at best a questionable exercise. In the face of a $25 billion budget hole, it’s completely inexcusable, even if the amount spent is tiny. Declare success and quit while we’re ahead, I say.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by offthekuff. offthekuff said: New OTK post Steroid testing can never fail, it can only be failed: It’s definition of insanity time. Don Hooton… http://bit.ly/hQydqw […]

  2. […] differs greatly from what he cites, however. From a Dallas Morning News story in January, which I blogged about at the time: [T]he random steroid testing program for University Interscholastic League athletes […]