HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Random Tests May Reduce Drug Use By School Athletes
Pubdate: Mon, 30 Dec 2002
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


PORTLAND, Ore., Dec. 29 (AP) - Student athletes subject to random drug 
testing at an Oregon high school were about a fourth as likely to report 
using drugs as their counterparts at a similar school who were not tested, 
a study to be published next month in the Journal of Adolescent Health has 

The yearlong study by researchers at Oregon Health and Sciences University 
compared Wahtonka High School, where athletes were subject to random 
testing, and Warrenton High School, a demographically similar school near 
Astoria, where they were not.

By the end of the school year at Wahtonka, only 5.3 percent of the 135 
athletes said they were using illegal drugs, compared with 19.4 percent of 
the 141 athletes at Warrenton.

The Wahtonka students were also only a third as likely to use 
performance-enhancing substances like steroids, the survey responses, which 
were confidential, indicated.

The study, in the 1999-2000 school year, was financed by the National 
Institute on Drug Abuse, an arm of the National Institutes of Health.

"The differences between the schools were dramatic," said Dr. Linn 
Goldberg, a lead researcher. Students who were not athletes were not 
subject to drug tests but did fill out questionnaires that indicated 
similar levels of drug use at the two schools - 32.2 percent at Warrenton 
and 26.6 percent at Wahtonka.

The report comes six months after the issue of drug tests for students was 
the subject of a ruling by the United States Supreme Court. In June, it 
ruled that children attending public schools could be tested for drugs if 
they joined any competitive after-school activity, even chess.

Merry Holland, principal at Wahtonka, said the school has continued to test 
athletes since the study ended.

Ms. Holland said she believed the program had helped curb drug use. But the 
drug testing has also led some students to switch to substances not 
tracked, she said.

"There are a lot of parties with alcohol," Ms. Holland said. "If they want 
to stay with sports, and participate, they might switch to something they 
think is harder to detect."

About 5 percent of the nation's schools require drug tests for athletes. 
About 2 percent test students in other activities.

The Oregon pilot study was the forerunner of a three-year study at 13 
Oregon high schools.

The larger study was to examine whether the threat of testing keeps 
students from drugs. It was suspended in its third year after a federal 
agency expressed concern about some methods used in its latter two years.

The agency, the Office of Human Research Policy, said the study violated 
federal regulations by not properly obtaining informed consent from 
children and not protecting research subjects from coercive environments. 
The survey results used in the published study were not affected.

The researchers responded this month with offers to ensure student 
confidentiality, to stop using principals and coaches to solicit 
participation and to end financial incentives for schools to participate. 
Dr. Goldberg said researchers are waiting to hear whether the study may be 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D