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Platform : If Sports Build Character, Why Test High-School Athletes for Drugs?

July 03, 1995

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that high-school athletes may be tested randomly for drugs without any prior suspicion of drug use, as long as all members are subject to the same test. The four dissenting justices argued against allowing any kind of wide-scale suspicionless searches. The majority argued, however, that student athletes choose a role with reduced privacy. KATHY SEAL talked with athletes, non-athletes and high-school principals about the ruling.


18, graduate, Crenshaw High School, non-athlete

It would be OK just as long as it wouldn't be a surprise. They should tell the athletes way ahead of time, or even when they first join a team, "You're going to be tested." So if they do have a problem, they could say, "Coach, I have a problem. The drugs are still in my system, but I'm not doing this anymore."

Once you're an athlete, everyone is going to know who you are. So it's not a private thing anymore. So I don't think it would be an invasion of their privacy, because whether they like it or not, people are going to look at them as role models.

I don't think it's fair for athletes to use drugs if that's what they need to make it. If that drug is what's making them shoot that three-pointer or tackle that person that was going to make the touchdown, then they shouldn't be on that team anymore.


18, graduate, University High School; played varsity basketball

I think it's a good idea. Even though it might seem like an invasion of rights, I think it's necessary to keep everybody on a level playing field, because some schools do have people who cheat, and this is a way of stopping them.

Athletes should want to do it to show that they're clean and to weed out the people that aren't clean. You don't want to play against someone that's just up on steroids. If you don't use drugs then you have nothing to hide, anyway. Everyone can do a urine sample. It's not like taking blood. It's a painless process that shouldn't be a problem for anybody.


14, graduate, Carver Middle School, plays basketball in park league

I think it's a bad idea because why should I get tested just to play a sport? You should be clean to play a sport, but I don't think you should have to be tested. I just wouldn't feel right about it. They should know that you don't take drugs, because you act a particular way when you take drugs--out of this world or whatever. When you're drug-free, you act regular.

It would be kind of embarrassing. I already know I don't take drugs, so why should I have to take a drug test to prove it to somebody else? I shouldn't have to prove it to anybody.


19, graduate, Dorsey High School, has athletic and academic scholarships to Paine College in Augusta, Ga.

For those who do use drugs and have a good athletic career, if they test positive, then they don't have a chance to go on to college. It's already hard enough to graduate from high school and college. But putting regulations on that would be even worse, because there are so few black kids who want to go to college anyway.

I know they want to make sure kids don't bring drugs into school, but that's going to happen regardless--not just black kids, but white kids too.

The Principals' View


Crenshaw High School

No. I wouldn't want to institute mandatory drug testing on athletes. It shows a lack of trust in our young people. It's almost like saying, "We know that the majority of the young people take drugs, so we want to make sure that you guys are not making an unlevel playing field." Our children are bombarded with so many negative statements about young people that the last thing I want to do is something that sends a negative message. The majority of our young people do the right thing. I'd venture to say that 99.9% of our athletes don't fool with drugs. They're into health. They're into keeping their bodies clean, because they know that otherwise they don't have the stamina, concentration and focus they need to be a good athlete.

We encourage young people to participate in athletics because we tell them it builds character. We're saying, "It builds character, but I'm going to test you for drugs." Well, that's a double message. If participation is supposed to build character, they must allow participation to be the guiding force in terms of what they will or will not ingest into their bodies.


Cleveland High School, Reseda

When I came to this state 30 years ago, it was one of the top states in the country in terms of resources [for schools]. Now we're one of the lowest. I think drug testing would tax the resources even more, unless the court also passed money down along with this decision, which we know didn't happen. The thing that would come to mind immediately is that it's going to take time and personnel to do it. We do random searches now for weapons--that's time, money and resources.


Banning High School, Wilmington

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