Keeping Athletes Drug Free: The Pros vs. High School

Could random drug tests used by professional sports be an option at the high school level?


Photo by Senior Airman Ashlin Frederick from US Air Force via creative commons license

Although randomized drug testing is most often heard about in sports, pictured is Kimberly Heine, Armed Forces Medical Examiner performing the scientific testing in order to make sure that members of the military are also drug free.

Josh Thaler, Junior Editor

Since drug testing in professional sports has become an almost expected occurrence, it has become less newsworthy– especially after the debacle with future-Hall-of-Fame candidates such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez, and Alex Rodriguez getting caught using performance-enhancing drugs to become the best in baseball.

Ever since the MLB made the punishments more harsh for these drugs, the usage scandal in professional sports has somewhat disappeared and become less of a common topic in the public eye.

However, on December 17, 2018, Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid posted a picture on Twitter of a request to report for a random drug test, for the seventh time.

Reid being randomly chosen seven times led many to wonder just how random the tests are. Do random drug tests actually keep drugs out of professional sports? And if so, then would using these types of tests keep drugs out of high school sports? Closer to home, what does Dallastown do to make sure athletes stay drug-free, and what are there consequences for student athlete drug use at DHS?

It is rare to find a high school, particularly a local one, that tests student-athletes for drugs, but most schools do have severe consequences including suspension from sports activities for those found to have “broken” their co-curricular contracts. Dallastown does not require drug testing for student athletes; however, there are consequences. An athlete receives a 30-day suspension from their sport for a first offense and a year-long suspension from all of school sports for a second offense.

In addition, students are required to get some form of counseling.

“Dallastown has a SAP (Student Assistance Program) through the Counseling Office. If a student athlete violates his/her Athletic Participation Contract, they are placed into the program,” assistant Athletic Director Josh Luckenbaugh said.

Failure to agree to the program can result in longer suspensions.

One of the biggest problems with randomized drug testing, is the cost for the school itself. However, there are high schools that do drug testing, including Mars Area School District near Pittsburgh. The school board has “adopted District Policy 227.1 Random Drug Testing.”

The implementation of the drug tests in Mars School District take place “at the beginning of the school year and/or of each sport season, or when a student moves into the District and joins a sport, students wishing to purchase a parking permit or wishing to participate in that season’s sports or participate in any extracurricular activity will be subject to urine testing for illicit or banned substances as specified below,” according to school policy.

In the 2001 Supreme Court case Tecumseh School District v Earls, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the school district was legally allowed to non-invasively drug test as many students as they want, mandatorily, under the Fourth Amendment.

Although there is not drug testing at DHS, there is an “Athletic Participation Contract” that all prospective athletes and their parents must sign in order for them to participate. This contract holds student athletes responsible for their actions. Sections of the Code of Conduct at Dallastown include rules about attendance, academics, school discipline, and illegal substances. Dallastown has a “no alcohol, illegal substances/paraphernalia or tobacco products” rule that includes all forms of electronic cigarettes.

Dallastown’s rules are clearly defined, but like many schools, do not allow for random testing of athletes. Although there are still some legal issues and requirements with randomized drug tests, it does occur at some high schools and  most colleges and universities.

How do the tests work, and what do they actually find? There are currently a few methods that involve bodily fluids and hair but these all “vary in cost, reliability, drugs detected, and detection period,” from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Anna Hess, 2015 Dallastown graduate and senior swimmer at Franklin and Marshall College, was recently randomly selected to take a drug test before the 2018-19 swim season.

“F&M has had a policy where athletes can be randomly drug tested at any point during the school year. Normally, two members from each team are randomly selected at the start of each semester. I got notified that I was chosen by receiving an email from our athletic trainer stating where and when I had to report for my test. For the actual test, we all reported to the trainer where we all sat in a room with no access to our phones. When it was your turn, you went to a separate bathroom with one of the trainers. You had to leave the bathroom stall door open as the trainer watched you produce your urine sample,” Hess said

According to NIDA, “Various testing methods normally test for a ‘panel’ of five to 10 different drugs. A typical drug panel tests for marijuana, cocaine, opioids, amphetamines and PCP.”

The typical drug test takes a rather short amount of time to process and get the results, “I was told that I would hear in a few days to a week if something showed up positive but I did not hear anything, so I was fine to continue competing. I know in instances where tests are positive, athletes receive a suspension so that they cannot participate in athletics for several months,” Hess said.

Although the importance of these randomized drug tests is widely debated, many argue that they are to keep athletes of all ages safe and drug free, whether they are professional, collegiate, or still in high school.

Check out the link below to read Dallastown’s participation policy and code of conduct for student athletes.