TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Richard J. Codey which would expand New Jersey’s efforts to combat steroid use among students was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee today.
“While we want to encourage our student-athletes to be the best they can be, steroids are not the answer,” said Senator Codey, D-Essex. “The health risks of prolonged steroid abuse are well-documented, but whether it’s peer pressure or the bad example set by some professional athletes, too many students still take the risk. Keeping kids away from steroids should be one of the State’s top athletic safety priorities, and this bill would go a long way towards that end.”
The bill, S-834, would codify into law a number of recommendations made by the Governor’s Task Force on Steroid Use and Prevention, as well as some of the provisions of the Governor’s Executive Order 72 – both of which were adopted by then-Governor Codey in 2005 to begin to address steroid abuse by younger athletes. The bill would require the Department of Education and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to establish a program of random steroid testing of student-athletes who qualify to compete in championship tournaments.
It would also require coaches at the public school level and the nonpublic school interscholastic level to set up programs for their teams to reduce the use of steroids and performance enhancing supplements. The programs would also emphasize healthy nutrition and exercise, would warn students about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse – including the health risks of steroid and supplement use and abuse, and would provide students with information and strategies to avoid peer pressure and stay drug free. The NJSIAA would run an annual workshop for all public and nonpublic middle school and high school coaches on steroid and performance enhancing supplement prevention in order to give coaches the most current information and best strategies to keep their athletes drug free.
“Sometimes, the best person to empower kids to stay healthy and steer clear of drugs is their coach,” said Senator Codey, who coaches a travelling basketball team in West Orange. “Coaches have a responsibility to teach their athletes more than just the fundamentals of the game, and especially since they’re involved in training student-athletes, they’re sometimes best-positioned to identify steroid abuse early and help put a stop to it. This bill clarifies a coach’s responsibility to his team to help them avoid steroid abuse, and gives them the tools and training they need to get through to their kids.”
Finally, the bill would expand the State’s public outreach regarding steroid abuse in schools. The bill would require the NJSIAA to include anti-steroid and anti-performance enhancing supplement advertisements in any brochure, pamphlet, program or book distributed or sold at school sporting events in New Jersey. The Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse would be required to prepare an instructional poster which would be displayed in school gyms and locker rooms, warning of the potential health risks of steroids and the penalties for their use and possession.
Through the legislation, “Steroid Awareness Week” would be established in schools as a week in September to educate the general student body about the dangers of steroid abuse and begin discussions on healthy strength-building methods and how to interpret the labels on dietary supplements marketed for performance enhancement. The Department of Education would be required to provide information and materials concerning the prevention of steroid abuse and performance enhancing supplements on its Web site. And the State Board of Education would be required to review core curriculum standards to ensure that students are properly educated about the health risks of anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing supplements.
“The best weapon we have to prevent steroid and supplement abuse is information,” said Senator Codey. “Often, student-athletes cannot recognize that the consequences of steroid abuse – both in terms of legal consequences and long-term health risks – far outweigh the superficial benefits. By expanding our public outreach in schools across the State of New Jersey, we’re equipping all students – not just athletes – to make better decisions for themselves and their futures when it comes to steroid and supplement use.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.