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Texas Budget Cuts to Spare Student-Athlete Steroid Tests

Despite facing a $20 billion-plus deficit, the Texas legislature tentatively agreed on a budget bill this week that maintains roughly $1.5 million worth of spending for student-athlete steroid tests over the next two years.

Under Texas' current steroid-testing system, which originally cost $3 million per year, every one of the state's 700,000-plus student-athletes is eligible for a random test (using a urine sample). Now, state legislators say the testing will likely narrow its focus to a few sports—namely, football, baseball, and track, according to the Associated Press.

"Make it so a senior offensive lineman has a better chance of getting tested than a freshman female volleyball player," Dan Hooton said. (Taylor Hooton, his son, was a former Texas high school football player whose 2003 suicide was linked to steroids.)

Since the program's inception in 2007, more than 50,000 student-athletes have been tested for steroids. Fewer than 30 have returned positive results.

Last month, the University Interscholastic League released results of 2,083 steroid tests for student-athletes at 135 schools last fall, and it turned out that only one student tested positive. (One other student-athlete violated protocol by not reporting for testing.)

Proponents of the steroid tests suggest that despite the low number of positive results, the program acts as a deterrent for student-athletes. Granted, as Rep. Dan Flynn admitted during the legislative session on Monday, funding for the program became tough to defend as the state faces the potential of thousands of job losses for teachers.

Lawmakers still need to cast a final vote on the budget—which they're expected to do tomorrow—before the funding figures for the steroid tests become official. In the legislature's original budget proposals, the House had slashed all funding for the program, while the Senate preserved it.

In other Texas school sports news: The Senate passed a bill Monday that bans schools from using football helmets older than 15 years. The bill also requires schools to recondition 10-year-old helmets at least once every two years. The House passed the bill on April 5, so it now heads to Gov. Rick Perry for final approval.

Keep in mind, the U.S. Congress also has helmet-safety legislation under consideration. The proposed bills would give the helmet industry nine months to improve safety standards before the Consumer Product Safety Commission would take over the regulation of helmet safety.

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