On March 15 a drug ring of four men was arrested in Danbury after being accused of illegally selling marijuana and anabolic steroids. The major drug bust turned heads in the Fairfield Country area, not because of the jail time that awaits these men, but instead because of the ring’s possible clients, high school athletes.
The alleged connection between the drug ring and local student athletes has sparked conversation over drug testing in high school sports. According to Section 4.15H of the CIAC’s Chemical Health Policy, the choice to partake in drug testing is up to the discretion of each school.
The FCIAC follows the same policy; the conference does not require that schools test their players. As it stands right now, the only states that do test high school athletes for recreational drugs or steroids are New Jersey, Illinois and Texas. While the Board of Education would need to create new policy in order to start drug testing, Principal John Dodig believes that the need to test athletes would demonstrate a major issue at Staples.
“Personally, I would not advocate drug testing for the same reason I don’t advocate breathalyzing everyone who enters our prom venue. If that is the extent to which we must go to have a safe prom or to have an athletic program, then we should abandon both and stick to our primary mission of education,” Dodig said.
While he is a fan of the current rules stipulated by the FCIAC on drug testing, Dodig said that he doubts the BOE would ever create legislation to begin testing athletes. One of the main reasons for the doubt by Dodig and others is the financial burden that testing requires.
According to the National Center for Drug Free Sports, the drug-testing program that it conducts and places in high schools around the country costs about $100,000. Aware of the budget cuts that many towns are experiencing across the FCIAC, high school reporter and creator of the FCIAC Football Blog, Tim Parry has a solution to limiting the costs. Parry believes that the most effective way to test players and save money is to put the responsibility in the hands of someone other than the school districts.
“Instead of putting the burden on the schools and the leagues, maybe it should be done as a part of a student-athlete’s annual physical. This way, it takes the expense off the schools and off the CIAC and the FCIAC. There’s no reason the urine and blood samples can’t also be used to test for performance enhancers or social drugs,” Parry said.
While Parry may have found the answer financially, there are many who still believe that drug testing is a breach of privacy. Staples boys’ soccer coach Dan Woog is extremely opposed to the idea of drug testing because of the possible problems that come with the territory.
“Drug testing opens the door to a lot of legal problems and issues with parents. Even if we did test, how would you do it and who’s suspicion of drug use would you base the testing on? Testing sounds like a very easy solution, but it is very difficult to implement,” Woog said.
While Woog may be against testing his players, the Staples soccer coach understands the tremendous impact that drug use can have on a team. During his time leading the Staples soccer program, Woog says that he has seen a player’s drug problems have a major effect on a team’s success. In fact, while serving as an assistant coach, Woog had to deal with the suspension of one player due to his heavy use of marijuana.
If Staples were to begin drug testing, marijuana would most likely be the number one concern of those being tested. According to Staples athletes Chris Coyne ’11 and Julian Gendels, marijuana is by far the most popular drug at Staples and each believe that weed would cause more of an issue with drug testing than any performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
In response to the possibility of steroids being used in the Fairfield Country area, Gendels said that there is no one to his knowledge that uses steroids who still attends Staples. With this idea in mind, the former Staples football player believes that testing only becomes necessary when a player is at risk of hurting himself or someone else.
“I believe that what kids do outside of school is their own business but if there was reason to believe that the student was in danger due to drugs or getting out of hand with them then the school should be allowed to drug test them,” Gendels said.
The issues that Gendels brings up are a reason why many teams at Staples have been forced to take action in punishing their players. One former football player was suspended for marijuana use in 2008. Coyne explained the repercussions that this situation had on the team.
“Drug use has a huge impact, not only could it get the entire team in trouble, but it is a distraction for all the players. It could also make other teammates feel pressured to try these drugs as well,” Coyne said.
The use of drugs by athletes in season is a major reason why support is continuing to increase for testing players. Staples Student Outreach Counselor Chris Lemone believes that for some kids, there is a sense of invincibility and drug tests would find a way to eliminate that feeling.
“It is human nature to believe you are bullet proof, and people need to suffer consequences sometimes to understand they are not and to stop risky behavior. Drug testing might provide some of that,” Lemone said.