Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Mila Jasey and Raj Mukherji to expand steroid testing and education throughout New Jersey high schools was approved 69-2-5 by the full Assembly on Thursday.
"Student athletes who see steroids as a quick fix, fail to realize how detrimental they can be to a person's physical and psychological health," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "I can understand how a young person who has hopes of playing professionally wants to get an edge over the competition, but risking your health is not worth it. Random testing of student athletes can help deter steroid use among young people who might be more concerned with getting caught than the harmful side effects."
The bill (A-2353) builds upon the recommendations in the December 2005 report of the Governor's Task Force on Steroid Use and Prevention by expanding the state's existing random steroid testing program beyond just those athletes who qualify for playoffs to include student athletes in general.
"Young people often tend to be more impulsive and willing to take risks, regardless of whether it puts their health in danger," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "Random testing, coupled with an information campaign focused on prevention, can help keep student athletes away from steroids and its harmful side effects."
The bill requires the Department of Education and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to work jointly to develop and implement, by the next school year, a program of random steroid testing of student-athletes. Under the bill, any person who coaches a public school district 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.
"Having just concluded the summer Olympics where doping concerns garnered a number of headlines, it's important that we stress to young people the dangers and heavy consequences that accompany steroid use," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "Increasing testing and prevention education will hopefully deter more student athletes from pursuing this reckless path."
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 next 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 programs. 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. 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 now heads to the Senate for consideration. It would take effect immediately upon enactment.