Last Updated 13 Jan 2021

Drug Testing in a High School Setting: Pros and Cons

Category Drug Testing, School
Essay type Research
Words 2422 (9 pages)
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Taking steroids to enhance athletic performance has become widespread among athletes worldwide. This practice not only violates athletic regulations and the intent of fair competition but also damages many of the body's major organs. Drug testing has therefore been implemented in many collegiate and professional sports and some high school athletic programs with the goal of maintaining competitive fairness. Drug testing is the method that has been chosen to identify those athletes who use banned drugs to enhance their sports performance at the expense of the athletes who do not take drugs.

Almost any athlete competing above the high school level, and increasingly at even high school level too, is subject to drug testing. There are almost as many drugs used by athletes as there are sports. Some athletic performance enhancers are not drugs at all. Some performance-enhancing techniques use human hormones (or synthetic derivates thereof), and other use the athlete's own blood. Some of these techniques are presently undetectable by urine and blood samples. Drug testing alone will not be enough to stop the use of steroids and other drugs.

While drug testing is the first line of defense at the collegiate and professional levels of sport, athletes, parents, and we coaches and trainers must bear the greater responsibility for keeping the playing field level at the junior high and high school levels. The use or possession of alcohol and illegal or controlled substances by students is reaching epidemic proportions. Along with traditional education and drug-resistance programs in the schools and the community, proactive prevention and deterrence measures must be in place and publicized to all students.

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Drug testing is part of a much wider picture. Curbing drug use and implementing drug testing policies are significant concerns of parents, administrators and us coaches. The important pros of mandatory drug testing within a high school sports setting are:

  • Greater deterrence to drug use.
  • Promoting fairness in sports competitions.
  • Helping drug users relinquish their drug dependency (punitive aspects need to be minimized)

2. A brief history of drug testing Drug testing of humans began in the late 1950s, when, after several European cycling and track races, evidence of drug use was observed.

In 1965, procedures were developed which were capable of detecting a number of different stimulants; these were used to test participants of the Tour of Britain Cycle Races. The fist formal testing for nonsteroidal drugs occurred at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games though there still was no official testing for steroids. The development of complex radioimmunoassay (RIA) screening procedures as well as analytical advances in gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) techniques led to the introduction of tests for anabolic steroids at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games (Yesalis, Cowart 75).

The test method of determining whether or not the testosterone in an athlete's body came from illegal use by the athlete was developed by Donike et al. in 1983. In 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, the IOC laboratory reported the detection of several banned drugs in the participating athletes. High resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) analysis was introduced in the 1996 Atlanta Sumer Olympic Games. In recent years, Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LCMS) is being used in drug testing laboratories because it has several advantages over traditional GCMS technique.

In the future, LCMS will become increasingly more important in the drug-testing laboratories because of its ability to confirm the presence of most drugs, including natural hormones (HGH, EPO, etc. ). Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) is a relatively new technique that is being proposed for verification of testosterone positives. Three decades have passed since sports drug testing became part of the Olympic Games. Drug testing is now part of professional sports, collegiate sports, and to a smaller extent, high school sports.

The technology of drug testing has made significant advances; at the same time, cheating methods have also evolved and grown more sophisticated.

3. The efficacy of drug testing in high schools Surveillance for drug use employing a random drug-testing model is currently receiving significant attention and consideration by high school administrators and public officials. In fact, random drug testing has been implemented in a number of school districts for students engaged in extra-curricular activities and is being considered for use with general student bodies.

It is understandable that use of drug testing is being considered as a prevention tool with student-athletes since both NCAA and many professional sports employ this methodology. Further, many if not all NCAA Division 1 university athletic programs employ random drug testing at some level in response to concerns about drug use among collegiate athletes and because of potential NCAA sanctions for drug test failures. Hence, high school athletic programs are typically viewed as an aid to deter and to detect use. The efficacy of this tool in curbing drug use has yet to be thoroughly evaluated, however.

Results to date have been rather equivocal with assessments both providing modest support for efficacy and indicating no effects. Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, the SATURN (Student Athlete Testing Using Random Notification ) project was designed to evaluate whether a nonpunitive, compulsory, random, suspicionless drug testing policy deterred drug and alcohol use among high school student athletes in two Oregon schools. Participation was required for all students and was a mandatory prerequisite for athletic participation.

Results showed that a policy of random drug testing surveillance significantly reduced self-reports of recent performance-enhancing substances and, to a lesser extent, common drugs of abuse but did not produce long-term changes in substance use and associated high-risk behaviors use among adolescent athletes. Further, neither tobacco or alcohol use was altered. This result suggests at least limited efficacy when targeting a specific drugs that may be associated with well-documented harm potential to student-athletes.

The authors of the investigation caution against over-interpretation of results suggesting efficacy of testing as adequate intervention (OHSU).

4. Privacy – the fundamental issue At the heart of drug-testing controversy in schools, however, is not efficacy but privacy. Public schools are state actors; thus, the constitutional protections apply with respect to students and employees of public schools systems. As public institutions, public schools must follow the dictates of the Fourth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution as well as any particular provisions form the state constitutions that apply to them.

In essence, the Fourth Amendment protects people and their houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Such protection is vital to the privacy protection of all citizens from unacceptable conduct on the part of the government or its officers or agents. If a search is conducted, and a drug test is considered a search, the search must be reasonable and the intrusion of the test on an individual's privacy must be weighed against the government's interest in conducting the test. Reasonableness will depend on the circumstances.

However, in most cases, suspicion is not required in order to perform a test. Because the use of certain performance-enhancing drugs is illegal according to federal statutes, many institutions have attempted to implement drug testing policies in order to deter their students from using drugs and also to detect drug use. Such a measure is deemed necessary in order to either provide assistance to those who do no understand the dangers involved in drug use or to provide information to law enforcement official in order that they may become involved to rid the institution of drug users.

At the high school sport level, officials realize that drug use can be particularly dangerous to the more susceptible bodies of growing children. However, many times the athletes forced to submit to a drug-testing program do not do so willingly.

They feel that the drug test infringes on their privacy rights as protected by the federal constitution and that they should not have to submit to the test. These individuals are typically not drug users; instead they are participants who find that if they do not submit to the testing, they will not be able to continue participating in the sport or activity of their choice.

Beginning in the 1980's, these individuals sued the institutions who developed the drug testing policies so that they could avoid being tested as a requirement of participation. Until 1995, institutions who attempted to implement drug-testing policies were often unsure as to whether their policies would be upheld in court of law. However, 1995 the U. S. Supreme Court finally dealt with the issue. In the Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton case, the Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of a drug testing program applied to student-athletes at the high school level.

In the mid 1980s, teachers and administrators in the Vernonia School District, Oregon, noticed a sharp increase in student drug us and an increase in disciplinary problems at the school. The school district also found that student-athletes were both users and leaders of the drug culture (Imber, Geel 159). The district implemented a drug testing policy that applied to all students participating in athletics, requiring each student to sign a form consenting to the random urinalysis testing policy before being allowed to participate in sports.

During the test, the student would enter a locker room with an adult monitor who would check the sample produced for temperature and tampering. In 1991, Seventh grader James Acton refused to sign the consent form and was not allowed to play football. His family sued claiming that the drug testing policy violated the Fourth Amendment. After a long process of examining the case, the court finally ruled that students who are in athletics and other highly visible extracurricular activities have a diminished expectation of privacy.

Schools may carry out certain suspicionless searches, such as random drug tests of athletes, the court ruled, because such tests are mandatory only for those who choose to participate in those voluntary activities.

While general drug testing can been seen as unreasonable, specific drug testing has to be allowed – especially, when it is limited to extracurricular athletics. The Vernonia School offered considerable discretion to school officials in their effort to control student behavior. According to the court ruling, individualized suspicion was not necessary before submitting students to random urinalysis drug testing.

The court ruled that school officials exercised their duties as state actors, an authority that was "custodial and tutelary, permitting a degree of supervision and control that could not be exercised over free adults. " The Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalie, who wrote the opinion, also said that athletes have less of an expectation of privacy because they change clothes and shower together. The Court also said that since athletes can be role models, it is especially important to be sure that they do not use drugs.

The reasoning in Vernonia has been extended to include all other extracurricular activities. Since 1995, numerous other court decisions have ruled in favor of school districts that conduct the random drug testing of student athletes, although the testing of other students is still conditioned on "reasonable suspicion" by school administrators.

Many developments since 1995 indicate the growing extensiveness of drug testing within the schools of the United States. For instance, in 1995 the Dayton County, Ohio, school district implemented a program to conduct random drug testing on student athletes.

In September, 1999, the 6th U. S Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the legality of Knox County, Tennessee, program designed to test teachers, principals, and other school employees. Harlan county, Kentucky, during the 1999-2000 school year, initiated a random drug-testing program for all teachers, principals, and administrators. From time to time, the various attempts of school authorities at implementing drug testing programs are seen as violating students' privacy rights when they require students to submit to blood or urine tests.

An Arkansas Court, for example, ruled that there were less obtrusive (and intrusive) ways to determine rule infraction. In another development, a New Jersey school policy was rebuffed. The school board required students to have annual exams that included a urinalysis. If a student tested positive for drugs, then district officials notified the student's parents, hoping that the parents would then get treatment for the student. The court ruled this procedure as unreasonable.

And although various school districts across the country are now testing employees and student athletes, a private high school in Memphis, Tennessee, has initiated random drug testing on its entire student body, a program endorsed and financially supported (to the tune of sixty dollars per test) by parents. Students refusing to submit to testing are to be expelled from school. Thus, drug testing on the entire student body may often raise several complicated issues. However, within the context of high school sports competitions, drug testing is very essential to ensure fairness.

There are few cons to drug testing in high school sports, as long as such programs are executed in right spirit. The concern for fairness easily overrides the concern for privacy in a sports setting, as the landmark Vernonia case rightly concluded.

5. Deterrence, not punishment Several other court cases in the subsequent years brought out the need for and the advantages of drug testing in high schools. In 1998, the Federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an Indiana school's random drug-testing of high school athletes and cheerleaders.

In this case, the Court found the school's policy was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The school did not require observed specimen collection, a positive test did not result in expulsion, and privacy concerns of students that were required to disclose any medication they were taking were adequately addressed by the school. Additionally, students were give the opportunity to challenge positive test results by taking a conforming test at no expense to the student. Deterrence, safety and the health of students performing in athletic events constituted the basis supporting the court’s judgment.

The Court reasoned that the school system has responsibilities as guardian and tutor of children entrusted in its care and that deterring drug use by students is a compelling interest. The Court also noted that the school's program was designed to deter drug use, not to punish users. As coaches working in school setting, we must always strive to remember to lay stress on deterrence and not on punishment, only then the pros of drug testing can be maximized and cons minimized.

The aim of drug testing is not to trap and punish students who use drugs. It is, in fact, counterproductive simply to punish them without trying to alter their behavior. If drug-using students are suspended or expelled without any attempt to change their ways, the community will be faced with drug-using dropouts, an even bigger problem in the long run. The purpose of testing, then, is to prevent drug dependence and to help drug-dependent students become drug free. (Office of National Drug Control Policy 22)

Drug Testing in a High School Setting: Pros and Cons essay

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Drug Testing in a High School Setting: Pros and Cons. (2016, Oct 02). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/drug-testing-in-a-high-school-setting-pros-and-cons/

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