ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
And in this part of the program: testing for steroids - not at the Olympics, not at the Tour de France, and not in the NFL or in Major League Baseball, in high school.
Some time this school year, Texas is expected to start running random tests for performance-enhancing drugs on some 25,000 student athletes. And that would make it the world's biggest steroid testing program. There are some doubts about the efficacy of drug testing, and we'll hear about that in a few minutes.
But first, the author of the bill that creates the Texas plan, Kyle Janek, who in addition to being a state senator in Texas, is also an anesthesiologist. And he joins us from Austin.
Welcome now to the program, Senator Janek.
State Senator KYLE JANEK (Republican, Texas): Thank you for having me.
SIEGEL: And what prompted you to introduce a bill to test for performance-enhancing drugs among high school students?
State Sen. JANEK: Well, bluntly put, it was the lieutenant governor who prompted me. This had been an important issue for the lieutenant governor of Texas, David Dewhurst. He's heard from parents and coaches. He's read news reports. The Dallas Morning News had an article at some point talking about the possibility of widespread use in high school athletics. And when the lieutenant governor was searching for a bill authored to come out at the Senate, he came to me because of my medical background.
SIEGEL: When use the word widespread here, what does that mean? Of 25,000 student athletes in Texas high schools, are we talking about dozens? Do you suspect hundreds? Might there be thousands of kids using performance-enhancing drugs?
State Sen. JANEK: Very difficult to say. The purpose of the program is testing to determine how many students could be using steroids. And hopefully, this will all act as a deterrent for the students and the parents and coaches.
SIEGEL: Now, there are people who have studied much, much smaller, random drug-testing programs who've said that when you compare what the tests found to self-reporting surveys and what students admit to using in the way of drugs, it doesn't appear to be a big deterrent effect from drug testing.
State Sen. JANEK: I can't dispute those studies without knowing more about any individual study, but I would say this, if a student thinks that they have a 20 percent chance of being tested or a 3 percent chance or a 5 percent chance or an 80 percent chance, those things all weigh on the students themselves. Now, that may skew your numbers. If in fact it is a deterrent, it may mean that fewer students would do that and I say more is the better. That works out just fine for me.
SIEGEL: Students who are doing this, who are taking performance-enhancing drugs know, unless they went to primary school on Mars, they know this is wrong and they know that the athletes get busted for this. That means that it's something covert. Are you concerned that kids might figure out since they're already breaking the rules by doing it, they'd figured out how to game any system of testing?
State Sen. JANEK: We will constantly be on the lookout for that. On the one hand, you could say that to use steroids without a valid medical purpose and without a physician prescription is in itself illegal, why will they worry about bending a rule or breaking a rule if they're already breaking the law? But I think people's human nature, they will rationalize it, well, this isn't that bad. I'm not hurting anyone except maybe myself, and I'm young and healthy and I don't - I'm not going to do this very long, just enough to make the varsity or just enough to make a college team or go to scholarship or make it into the minor leagues or the pros. I think, typically at that age, kids will talk themselves into anything, that's part of the charm of adolescence; that kids think they are invincible.
SIEGEL: What do you say to the argument here that something is much more fundamentally amiss here than just taking a particular drug. That the kid who would put his health at risk in order to make the high school football team or the track team for that matter or take a second off this time, that there's something wrong here. It's more important than the deterrent of testing.
State Sen. JANEK: Oh, I could not agree more. There is something amiss. It's something that no one lawmaker can do anything about. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on students to perform, as well as we've seen that the portrayal of steroids - as while being illegal, immoral and against the rules of professional sports - actually work. So there is pressure from all angles of these kids. We want them to know that it's illegal. It is damaging to you in the long run, and you will be punished if caught.
SIEGEL: That's Dr. Kyle Janek, who is a Texas State senator and author of the Texas plan for random drug testing of high school student athletes.
Thank you very much, Senator Janek.
State Sen. JANEK: Thank you for having me.
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