Pubdate: Sun, 15 Jul 2007
Source: Citizens' Voice, The (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
Copyright: 2007 The Citizens' Voice
Author: Mike Garvey
Bookmark: (Drug Test)


Even with Hazleton Area starting a drug-testing policy in September, 
there are only three schools in District 2 that have one.

That begs the question: What's the PIAA stance on the steroid front? 
While Texas, Florida and New Jersey have state-wide testing programs, 
Pennsylvania is going a different route to keep its high school 
sports drug-free -- education.

In November 2006, the PIAA started running a pilot program called 
STAR Sportsmanship. Run by an Alabama-based company, Learning Through 
Sports, STAR is an internet-based program that teaches 
student-athletes about sportsmanship, according to the program's 
proposal on the PIAA Web site.

The high school level of STAR Sportsmanship puts a heavy focus on 
steroids, their effects, risks and consequences.

The goal, according to PIAA spokesperson Melissa Mertz, is not to 
create some kind of penal colony for drug users through mandatory 
testing. That's playing a constant game of catch-up.

Rather, the PIAA wants to stop athletes from taking a drug, be it 
marijuana or anabolic steroids, before they ever think about starting.

"Changing the student's fundamental belief," Mertz said, "is going to 
be the key to turning them around. We felt that by following the 
educational process we're taking a more proactive process."

Which is not to say that catching anyone who falls through that this 
system isn't important to the PIAA.

Mertz said the state's athletic organization had considered a 
state-wide program.

But the PIAA has no adequate funding for a full-on, state-wide 
program with an annual budget of about $4 million.

Texas' program, according to an Associated Press article on July 8, 
costs $3 million.

"How are we going to fund this? That's probably one of the biggest 
concerns," Mertz said. "We wouldn't know where we'd even tap into the 
money to implement a state-wide program."

Right now, however, education is what the PIAA is equipped to provide.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman