TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida high school athletes participating in football, baseball and weightlifting will be subject to random steroid testing under a one-year pilot program Gov. Charlie Crist signed Tuesday.

The Florida High School Athletics Association will supervise the testing. Its membership includes 426 public schools and 224 private schools – all subject to the law that takes effect July 1.

“I am hopeful that through this legislation we will limit the number of high school students struggling with steroid use,” Crist said. “It’s our responsibility to teach our children the serious health risks that may be involved. We can help prevent serious health problems and drug abuse later on.”

The tests will be randomly administered to 1 percent of high school athletes who compete in football, baseball and weightlifting during the 2007-2008 school year. The legislation included $100,000 in funding to pay for the testing.

Any athlete who refuses to provide a urine sample would be ineligible to remain on the team. Those who test positive would be suspended from the team, but could be reinstated if they pass a follow-up test later.

“It’s been a four-year endeavor,” said state Rep. Marcelo Llorente, a Miami Republican who pushed the legislation with the help of state Sen. Alex Villalobos, another Miami Republican.

“I think this bill takes us a big step in the right direction,” said Llorente, a former college baseball player.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas signed a far more ambitious bill into law last week that allows testing of athletes in all sports. Texas budget planners set aside $3 million per year, and their program requires a “statistically significant sample” of students.

New Jersey became the first state in the country to start a statewide testing policy for high school athletes last year. Its initial testing for performance-enhancing drugs among 150 random samples taken last fall failed to produce a positive result, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association said.

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