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St.Bernard Coach Urges Drug Tests for His Athletes

July 24, 1986|DEREK RASER | Times Staff Writer

It is still in the planning stages, but if Jim McClune has his way, St. Bernard High will institute voluntary drug testing of its athletes this fall.

"My theory is that obviously kids don't have the self-control or the will power or the courage to withstand the pressures to take drugs," said McClune, athletic director and basketball coach at St. Bernard. "At least not enough young people have the strength."

McClune is not the only one with such a theory. Edison High in Huntington Beach has had a drug-testing program in effect for a year; Colton and Fontana are implementing similar programs now; Banning High in Wilmington plans to begin one this fall, and several San Diego schools have begun testing.

McClune is still gathering information for the St. Bernard High program, which probably will resemble the Banning program. His proposal must be approved by school administrators.

Banning Program Voluntary

Under the Banning program, which must be approved by the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District, athletes would voluntarily add their their names to a drug-testing list. Each week, five would be chosen at random and their urine tested for cocaine, PCP, marijuana and other drugs.

Like the Banning program, McClune prefers that St. Bernard's be preventive, not disciplinary.

"Even if somebody tests positive," McClune said, "it isn't a thing where we would bring in people from the school to administer some type of discipline.

"They would go into counseling, their parents would be notified by medical people. It's more of a positive thing."

Not on School Record

The school wouldn't be involved and students' records would not show that they had failed a drug test, McClune said.

Although testing would be voluntary, McClune said he hoped that all St. Bernard athletes would participate.

"Obviously, kids who are using drugs will not want to take the test," he said. "But although it will be voluntary on the surface . . . there will have to be peer pressure on some kids to get them in the program. It would be the same thing as everyone on the football team having to get haircuts."

Bill Seward, former St. Bernard football coach and now a television sportscaster in Northern California who has long been a proponent of drug testing on the high school level, applauded McClune's proposal.

"I think it's great," Seward said. "It's something that should have been done a long time ago.

Numbers Complicate Problem

"I think we kid ourselves if we don't realize that this stuff (drug use) starts real early. As a coach, you sometimes think you have a good feel for the pulse of what's going on. But, in a football situation where you have 40, sometimes 50 players, it's hard to keep tabs on everybody. Drug testing could help. I'm really glad that Jim is doing that."

Drug testing--especially for cocaine, the drug related to the recent deaths of sports stars Len Bias and Don Rogers--is overdue, supporters say.

In Los Angeles County, deaths related to cocaine increased dramatically between 1982 and 1985, according to the county Drug Abuse Program. There were 43 cocaine-related deaths in 1982, 118 last year.

Earlier this month, Chauncey L. Veatch III, director of the state's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program, said, "If there can be any solace (in the deaths of Bias and Rogers) it is that the myth of youthful invincibility to the deadly threat posed by cocaine and other drugs has been shattered."

Said McClune: "The big thing is that we just don't bury our heads in the sand and wait for one of our kids to die before we take some action. Two very famous people have died and hundreds of people who aren't famous have died. I think we would be foolish if they died in vain, if we didn't use those deaths as an example."

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