GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In an aggressive move to protect teens from the ongoing threat of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), the head of the Florida High School Athletic Association today asked the organization’s medical policy experts to conduct a top-to-bottom review of existing policies to determine what additional measures can be enacted to prevent the use of improper substances by high school student-athletes.
Dr. Roger Dearing, FHSAA’s executive director, asked the association’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to conduct a thorough review of existing standards to determine how they can be strengthened to stop the trend of PED use among professional and college athletes from spreading throughout prep sports. Dearing noted that under existing FHSAA sportsmanship bylaws and policies student-athletes can be suspended from competing if they have used PEDs, but Dearing suggested that these prohibitions may be insufficient in light of recent allegations that South Florida high school athletes received PEDs as part of the Biogenesis scandal.
“The FHSAA’s overriding priority is the safety, well-being and constructive development of young student-athletes, whose bodies and character are still forming. Performance-enhancing drugs undermine every aspect of this goal, and so it is imperative that our student-athletes adhere to a zero tolerance policy toward these inherently unfair and dangerous substances,” Dearing said. “Here is the bottom line for me: As executive director of FHSAA, I believe we must draw a line in the sand against performing-enhancing drugs. School districts simply cannot tolerate coaches who encourage or look the other way when athletes use PEDs. Therefore, these coaches cannot be allowed to keep their jobs or have anything to do with young athletes. This is about more than safeguarding fair play – it’s about saving lives.”
Dearing was joined in his call for a review by state Senator Bill Montford of Tallahassee, a former school principal and superintendent who now serves as chief executive officer of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents; and Dr. Jennifer Roth Maynard, an assistant professor of family and sports medicine with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and a member of the FHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.
“Performance-enhancing drugs pose a very real, very dangerous threat to high school student-athletes, both physically and psychologically,” said Senator Montford. “I commend the FHSAA for being proactive in addressing the challenge presented by coaches, parents and young athletes who want to get ahead by any means possible, whatever the personal cost.”
The 15-member Sports Medicine Advisory Committee includes a cross-section of experts from across Florida, including 11 physicians as well as athletic trainers, former coaches and educators. The committee’s work has led to recent FHSAA policies to better protect young student athletes in the areas of concussions and heat/hydration.
“The Advisory Committee should consider all aspects of performance-enhancing drugs,” Dearing said, asking for a “thorough top-to-bottom review of existing policies and procedures regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs by those who break the rules in order to tilt the playing field to their own advantage.”
Dearing asked the committee to consider the full range of issues related to PEDs, including but not limited to:
- whether existing policies and procedures provide sufficient authority for schools to test and discipline student-athletes who may be using banned substances;
- the legal, policy and fiscal implications of heightened policies against performance-enhancing drugs; and
- whether the FHSAA prohibition against performance-enhancing drugs would be more effective if set out as a stand-alone policy rather than existing only as a part of a broader policy on sportsmanship.
“Most young athletes have no idea the harm that can be caused by performance-enhancing drugs,” said Dr. Maynard. “Teenagers are still developing, both physically and mentally, and PEDs have no place in their lives. Whatever the FHSAA can do to stop PEDs from being used by high school student-athletes is a step in the right direction.”
A listing of members of the FHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is available at www.fhsaa.org/gov/sportsmed.