Potential legislation would allow drug tests of high school athletes

Staff and wire reports

Gov. Bill Richardson, noting steroids are no longer just a problem in professional sports, said Monday he wants New Mexico to begin random testing of high school athletes in the state.

Richardson spoke at a steroid summit put together by the New Mexico Activities Association, the governing body for high school sports in the state, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“We may be talking about a drug problem that is out of control and we don’t know it,” Richardson said. “We’ve got to have data on how bad the problem is.”

He said he’s appointing a task force that will draft legislation to be presented to lawmakers in January. The governor wants legislation that would allow for random testing of high school athletes, and said the state will provide $330,000 to get such a program started.

Clovis High School Athletics Director Dale Fullerton was happy about the announcement.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “With all the publicity we’re seeing with the pros, especially with baseball … I certainly think we need to get on top of it down here.”

Fullerton said he doesn’t think steroid use is a problem at CHS. He said students haven’t displayed the physical attributes of steroid use, which include stretch marks and chiseled muscles. However, he wouldn’t say the problem hasn’t reached CHS.

“I’m not dumb enough to say nobody in Clovis has ever used it,” he said.

The use of anabolic steroids, or so-called performance-enhancing drugs, has been a high-profile issue in pro sports. Several former and current Major League Baseball players, including Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, recently testified before Congress on the issue.

“We need to stop them now, so they don’t have to think this is what they have to do to get the next level,” Fullerton said.

However, no state currently tests high school athletes for steroid use. Clovis is one of three high schools in New Mexico that does any type of drug testing, officials said; none of the tests are for steroids.

Richardson said he wants New Mexico to be at the forefront of such an effort.

“We need to have some concrete recommendations for our state to take up in our next legislative session,” he said. “This could include testing, preventative measures, treatment methods and penalties for steroid use.

“We need to take every step possible to make sure that the ravages of steroid use stay out of our schools, our families and our communities.”

Still to be decided is how the announcement effects private schools that are a part of the NMAA, such as Clovis Christian, and whether such schools would eventually have to undergo testing. The state has no jurisdiction over private schools.

Robert Zayas, media relations director for the New Mexico Activities Association, said it could depend on who administers the tests, the state or the NMAA.

“It hasn’t been decided who’s going to run the steroid testing because the money hasn’t been allocated yet,” Zayas said.

CNJ staff writer John Eisel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.