Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Mila Jasey and Ralph Caputo to expand steroid testing and education throughout New Jersey high schools was unanimously approved by the full Assembly on Thursday.
"Student-athletes who turn to steroids to get an edge over the competition may not realize the serious risks they are taking with their health," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Many see their sports heroes achieve impressive feats with the help of steroids and think it is okay for them to do the same, not understanding how detrimental these drugs can be to their physical and psychological health."
The bill (A-2699) 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.
"Since it was first implemented, the results of our random steroid testing program have been extremely encouraging," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "However, they only capture a small snapshot of the student-athlete population. This bill will help expand testing to create an even greater deterrent to keep students away from these drugs and on the path to a healthier lifestyle."
In doing so, the bill would require the Department of Education (DOE) and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to work jointly to develop and implement, by the 2015-2016 school year, a program of random steroid testing of student-athletes. The bill would also appropriate $45,000 to the DOE to fund the testing.
"At the age it's very common to feel infallible, causing many teenagers to disregard the risks associated with steroid use," said Caputo (D-Essex). "Random testing along with greater education will help us prevent the use of these dangerous drugs among our 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. 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 2015-2016 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.
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.