FHSAA looking into PED use at local high schools
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (WSVN) -- A troubling trend in professional sports could be stretching further. Young athletes may have received performance enhancing drugs from the now closed, controversial Coral Gables Clinic Biogenesis, the same place some big time baseball players are suspected of visiting.
There are reports the clinic, linked to selling PEDs to players like Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, may have sold to local high school athletes.
Now, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) is working to build a tougher doping policy after reports that young high school athletes may also being using and abusing banned substances. David Holmes, the parent of a football player, said, "I do think it's a problem. I think a lot of these kids see these athletes on TV, and they say, 'Wow, I want to be big, fast, strong just like these guys."
Henriette Schafenacker, another parent, said, "I think that it is very accessible to these kids."
In a troubling trend, doctors say, they are seeing more teenagers abuse these drugs to gain a competitive edge. Dr. Paul Jellinger, an endocrinologist at Memorial Regional Hospital said, "The incidents among high school students, particularly who are using growth hormone in one form or another, is staggering. It's about five-and-a-half percent in terms of anabolic steroids. The range from from seventh, eighth grade to 11th grade, it may be two or three percent."
FHSAA is looking to put more muscle behind its current policies. Corey Sobers, represents the FHSAA. "Certainly education is going to be the first and probably the primary thing we are looking at," he said. "We also need to develop a stand-alone policy. The actual drug testing part of it is something that would be great. Funding-wise, obviously, that's going to be an issue."
Coaches at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, one of the top football programs in the country, said they constantly warn their athletes about the dangers of performance enhancement drugs. Rob Biasotti, a strength and conditioning coach at St. Thomas Aquinas, said, "We have a conversation with them at the beginning and multiple times of the year, that, 'Hey, listen, this is something that could not only affect your sports career in a negative way but your entire life in a negative way."
St. Thomas Aquinas' athletic director, George Smith, said he has only seen a couple of suspected cases in his long career but recognizes the problem. "It is a concern for us," he said. "We try to watch for tell-tale signs, but I believe that by now that Biogenesis proves you can beat the system."
When it comes to the idea of randomly testing high school athletes for steroids, Smith does not see how schools could afford to do it. "You can't go into a high school, to all the high schools in Florida, and mandate you've got to test 30 kids a month, no matter what sport it is, and it's going to cost you $250 to $500 because those schools can't pay that; we couldn't pay that," he said.
Some parents, however, feel different. Schafenacker commented, "I hope they do [test]. I would like to see something at the high school level for these athletes because they are starting so young."
Some parents said they want all student athletes to be educated on the doping dangers. "I think education number one," said Holmes, "and then testing number two."
All agree there needs to be tougher punishment if kids are caught bulking up with steroids. Schafenacker said, "To me, give them the book."
"They need to come up with something more severe, so these kids know not to even consider doing that," added Holmes.
The FHSAA's sports medicine advisory committee is set to meet Tuesday night at 7 p.m. to start the process of making new policies.
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