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 cleared the Senate Education Committee 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-367, would require the Department of Education and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to jointly develop and implement 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.
“Coaches play a critical role in encouraging safe and healthy practices for enhancing athletic performance and in recognizing any red flags among student athletes, but the responsibility is shared with schools and the greater community,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex/Morris). “Through a concerted effort which entails educating student-athletes about the dangers of steroids and other performance-enhancing supplements, and providing ongoing support and hands-on coaching in schools, we can achieve long-term prevention.”
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.
“Greater access to relevant and timely information about the risks of performance-enhancing substances through increased public awareness and education initiatives is one part of the comprehensive approach to deter New Jersey’s student athletes from turning to dangerous substances that can destroy their futures,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “And with coaches trained to recognize the signs of steroid use and random drug testing measures available for them to employ at their discretion, we can better protect our youth and assist them in achieving success and making safer choices.”
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 was released from the committee by a vote of 3-0-1. It next heads to the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee for consideration.