(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Marlene Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic) and Mila Jasey (D- Essex/Morris) to allow random steroid testing of student athletes who compete in championship tournaments, and require the creation of programs to raise awareness among students and coaches about the dangers of steroid use.
"Many of these young athletes see their sporting heroes achieve impressive feats with the help of steroids and think it is okay to do the same, not understanding how detrimental these drugs can be to their physical and psychological health," said Vainieri Huttle. "Random testing coupled with education is essential if we really want to prevent the use of these dangerous drugs among our student athletes."
"Student athletes lured by the edge that steroids can give them over the competition do not realize that they are gambling with their health," said Caride. "Young people are impressionable and often feel invincible. Random testing can help curb this dangerous practice. Educating them on the long-term effects that steroids have on the body and mind can help deter others from even starting."
"Young athletes who hope to play competitively in college and then perhaps professionally may see steroids as an effective way to step up their game, but they are making a decision without regard to the serious health risks they are inviting," said Jasey. "It is crucial that we not only implement random testing, but use education to discourage steroid use and replace it with safe performance improvement alternatives."
The bill (A-2574) requires the state Department of Education and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to work jointly to develop and implement, by the 2014-2015 school year, a program of random steroid testing of student-athletes who qualify to compete in championship tournaments sanctioned by the association.
Under the bill, any person who coaches a public school or nonpublic school interscholastic sport, dance, or cheerleading team must incorporate into the team's training activities a gender-specific program designed to reduce the use of steroids and performance enhancing supplements, alcohol, and drugs, and to promote healthy nutrition and exercise. The program must have a team-centered design that provides a non-stigmatizing atmosphere and includes gender-specific content to address the risk of substance abuse unique to male and female adolescents. The program developed by the coach must be submitted to the athletic director of the school district or nonpublic school for approval.
The bill also requires the NJSIAA to develop and implement, by the 2014-2015 school year, a steroid and performance enhancing supplement prevention information program for all public and nonpublic high school coaches and athletic directors. The program would establish procedures and protocols designed to: provide coaches and athletic directors with information on the dangers of steroids and performance enhancing supplements; identify the use of steroids and performance enhancing supplements in student athletes; and effectively incorporate healthy alternatives for strength building into coaches' training program.
The bill also requires the NJSIAA to provide anti-steroid and anti-performance enhancing supplement advertisements in any brochure, pamphlet, handout, program, book, or other type of material produced for sale or distribution at a tournament sanctioned by the association. The association may use any existing materials produced by the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey. Under the bill, the Commissioner of Education is charged with ensuring that information and materials about preventing steroid use are available on the Department of Education's website.
Lastly, the bill establishes the third week in September as "Steroid Awareness Week" in New Jersey and requires school districts to observe this week by organizing activities to raise awareness of the hazards of using steroids and performance enhancing supplements.
The bill was released by the Assembly Education Committee.