Acting N.J. governor orders state program
In a Dec. 20 executive order, acting Gov. Richard J. Codey created what is believed to be the nation’s first statewide steroid-testing program for high school athletes. Under the policy, athletes who want to compete in the state’s high school playoffs would be required to participate in the random testing program.
An estimated 10,000 students qualify for the playoffs as individuals or on teams in the 31 sports for which New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association runs championships.
Mr. Codey, a Democrat, mandated that the NJSIAA and the state department of education start testing in the 2006-07 school year. Mr. Codey announced the program in his order, but he left many of the details to the NJSIAA and the education department.
Among the first tasks is deciding what percentage of athletes would be tested for use of anabolic steroids and what punishments violators might incur. Officials must also decide when to test students so the results would be ready before the start of playoffs, said Bob Baly, an assistant director of the NJSIAA.
Drug-testing companies have told the association that they can provide results as quickly as 24 hours after testing, but such prompt service may turn out to be too expensive, Mr. Baly said.
Anabolic steroids can be injected or taken orally and are illegal without a prescription. They can bring rapid muscle growth, but also can damage the heart, kidneys, and liver, and cause other problems.
While steroid testing is now common for professional and Olympic athletes, Mr. Baly said the NJSIAA knows of no other state that requires high school athletes throughout the state to pass a test for steroid use to play.
Last year, the California Interscholastic Federation adopted a policy requiring student-athletes to sign a contract promising they won’t take performance-enhancing drugs. But the state is not going to give drug tests to students.
Whether New Jersey’s testing will happen is an open question, though. Mr. Codey leaves office Jan. 17, when U.S. Sen. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat, is sworn in as governor.
The governor-elect is committed to examining the issue of steroids on his own, but a spokesman for him wouldn’t guarantee that Mr. Corzine would endorse the testing policy as governor. “We’re going to take a look at it,” said Andrew Poag, a spokesman for the Office of the Governor-Elect.