It’s time. Our state and our schools have pussyfooted around a frightening public health issue long enough. We must start testing high school athletes for steroid use.

Florida introduced testing of football and baseball players and weightlifters under a one-year pilot program this week. Texas signed universal testing into law last week. New Jersey tests randomly statewide.

I don’t pretend to know how extensive a problem we have in Maine, and I wouldn’t want to be the one charged with implementing the program in a fair, cost-effective fashion.

So many unknowns, but here’s what I know with all my heart: If left to their own devices, schools, administrators and students will collectively swear that life is beautiful and do absolutely nothing.

You’ll rarely catch me advocating for Big Brother to poke his punitive, enslaving finger into our chest under any circumstances. There came a time, however, when the government couldn’t let tobacco companies and fast-food giants police themselves any longer. And the time has come, at least temporarily, for the Maine Principals’ Association to micromanage what courses through our kids’ bloodstream.

Having casually broached the subject with a few local athletic administrators over the years, I’ve heard each of them deny that it’s a problem in their towns. Even, in the same breath, as they shared detailed stories of college teammates who popped every pill and injected every substance imaginable in the 1980s.

You remember the ’80s. Our laughable national solution to every youth drug problem was imploring us to “just say no.” I knew then of a football player in a neighboring town who openly touted his use of the juice to the point where it was a widely accepted joke among his extended circle of friends.

So do you think the situation is better after two decades? Well, we’ve had an entire generation worth of persuasive resistance education (insert cynical belly laugh here). We’ve also watched a run of big league sluggers and college football stars demonstrate the benefits of being a real-life Michelin Man with few real consequences. That was helpful.

I see the obvious “creatine cramps” strike down somebody in the fourth quarter just about every autumn weekend. So I’m supposed to believe that’s all the kid has tried?

Most people passionate about high school sports will cite a lack of hard evidence and hope the problem purifies itself. I guess they would rather wait another 20 years and attend a flurry of premature funerals.

What we need is one aging jock with an axe to grind who will stand up and say, hey, my coach knew I was a pin cushion and didn’t say a damn thing to stop me because we were winning every Friday night. Until that happens, I’m just another tree crashing in a secluded forest.

That won’t stop me. If there’s one kid poisoning himself with this garbage, it’s reason enough to be a voice in the wilderness.


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