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Texas Lawmakers Bring an End to Student-Athlete Steroid Testing

After spending more than $10 million over the past eight years on steroid tests for high school student-athletes, Texas lawmakers voted Friday to end the program.

In the budget proposal sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, lawmakers voted to strip all funding for the program, according to Jim Vertuno of The Associated Press. While supporters defended the program's existence as a viable deterrent to student-athletes taking steroids, it ultimately resulted in very few positive tests.

Initially, all of the state's 700,000-plus public school student-athletes were eligible to be randomly chosen and forced to give a urine sample. However, only nine student-athletes tested positive in the state's first 19,000 tests, according to Vertuno, with an additional 60 "protocol violations." Of the 2,083 student-athletes tested in the fall of 2010, only one returned a positive result and another turned up as a protocol violation.

State legislators began chopping funding for the program—which initially had a $6 million budget over a two-year span—and even considered eliminating it entirely as far back as 2011. The state legislature wound up agreeing on a budget bill that year that maintained roughly $1.5 million for the program over the following two years, but concerns about the program's effectiveness remained.

In May 2014, the state's Sunset Advisory Committee recommended ending the program, citing its cost and diminished effectiveness. "Since the program began, changing attitudes in Texas and nationally toward steroid use have resulted in reduced use among teens," the commission wrote in its report. "Additionally, the Legislature has reduced funding for the program each biennium, resulting in fewer tests being conducted and diminishing the program's deterrent effect."

According to the Dallas Observer, the program uncovered just 40 positive tests in total—"less than one-half of 1 percent of all students tested." During the 2013-14 school year, just two of the 2,633 tests were confirmed positive results, along with 10 inconclusive endogenous records and seven protocol violations.

"While I am disappointed to see the testing program disappear, its demise was inevitable," said Don Hooton, one of the program's initial major advocates, to the AP. Hooton's son, Taylor, was a former Texas high school baseball player whose 2003 suicide was linked to steroids.

Though he supported the program at first, Hooton became disenchanted with loopholes that allowed student-athletes to evade positive tests.

"The chances of this program catching one of our Texas high-schoolers using steroids was somewhere between slim and none," he told the AP.

Once Abbott signs the proposal into law, Illinois and New Jersey will be the two remaining states that still test their student-athletes for steroids.

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