TRENTON — Legislation sponsored by Senator Richard J. Codey and Senator Shirley K. Turner that would strengthen New Jersey’s efforts to combat steroid use by student athletes received final legislative approval in the Senate today. The bill codifies elements of the executive order Codey signed as governor in 2005 — such as random testing — and expands on recommendations by a task force formed during the same year to include greater emphasis on education and on the role of coaches.
The bill, S-1857, would require the Department of Education and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to jointly develop and implement, by the 2015-2016 school year, a program of random student-athlete testing for steroids and other performance-enhancing substances. Currently, NJSIAA has a program of testing only for student-athletes who qualify to compete in championship tournaments sanctioned by the association. Under this bill, the NJSIAA will expand its program of random testing to student-athletes in general.
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 emphasize healthy nutrition and exercise, warn students about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, and provide students with information and strategies to avoid peer pressure and stay drug free.
“Long-term prevention can be achieved by educating student-athletes about the real dangers of steroids and other performance-enhancing supplements, ongoing support, and hands-on coaching. Quite simply, informed athletes make better choices,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex/Morris). “Schools share in that greater responsibility, and coaches are best positioned to encourage safe and natural ways to enhance athletic performance and to recognize early warning signs of any abuse.”
Under this bill, 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 athletes drug free.
The bill would also expand the State’s public outreach regarding steroid abuse in schools, requiring 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. The Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse would be required to prepare a poster for school gyms and locker rooms warning of the potential health risks of steroids and the penalties for their use and possession.
The Commissioner of Education would be charged with ensuring that information and materials about steroid use prevention are available on the DOE’s website, 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.
“Access to information about the risks of using performance-enhancing substances through increased education initiatives in our schools and public awareness campaigns is critical to ensuring that New Jersey’s student athletes can make safe and healthy choices,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “When coupled with random testing and coaches that are well-equipped with the knowledge to recognize the signs of steroid use, we are taking a comprehensive approach to deter student athletes from turning to steroids or other dangerous substances and creating an environment conducive to their success.”
The legislation would also establish the third week in September as “Steroid Awareness Week” in New Jersey and requires school districts to observe this week by organizing activities to educate the student body about the dangers of using steroids and performance enhancing supplements and begin discussions on healthy strength-building methods.
A sum of $45,000 has been appropriated from the General Fund to the Department of Education to fund the program of random testing by the NJSIAA.
The bill passed the Assembly with a vote of 73-0. It was approved by the Senate with a vote of 40-0. It now heads to the Governor’s desk.