Save for a few signatures, statewide steroid testing for Texas' high school athletes will get underway in the coming weeks.
The yet-to-be announced testing company will randomly select about 30 percent of Texas high schools, or an estimated 400 schools. Once those schools are notified, they must provide a list of all eligible student athletes. The testing company will then randomly select students to be tested, and those teens will be pulled from classes to have the test administered.
The parental permission slips have been sent out at A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, and the athletics department there is ready.
"There are always some people that don't want to be tested for anything," said Jeff Mann, the head athletic trainer for Consol, "and that's understandable, but once everybody understood exactly what the UIL was looking for, pretty much everybody was cooperative with the process."
The expectation is that more than 20,000 students will be tested each year in the random procedure.
"Even if we have suspicions of somebody, we have no say so in that situation," Mann said. "We just say, 'Here's the list,' and they notify us, 'These are the people we selected. You need to have them on this day at this location,' and that's that."
"Anything that helps kids not do drugs has got to be a good thing, so overall, it's going to be a good thing," said Jim Slaughter, Consol's athletic director and head football coach. "There's a lot of money being spent on it."
The state will be paying for the first two years of testing, a $6 million tab, though past the two-year mark, it's a bit up in the air.
"We've been instructed in Senate Bill 8 to research and come up with other means to fund this program after the 2008-09 school year," said UIL spokesperson Kim Rogers.
When a positive test appears, that athlete will receive a 30-day suspension from competition. They can only return to play after passing another steroid test. If there's a second positive, the punishment is a one-year ban. A third strike, and the athlete is out.
The tests are also only for performance enhancers, not recreational drugs. It's up to the school district to test for those.
Slaughter says in his time coaching, he's sat down a handful of players to have the steroid talk, but that steroids might not be the prime issue.
"I don't see it as being a big problem," he said, "but there's probably people out there that say, 'Yeah, those coaches all feel that way.' I think there are some other drugs that we are concerned about that we'd like to see tested also, but anything that is given to the kids as a weapon to use against taking drugs ought to be a good thing for us."
Before the end of the year, UIL officials have said they'd like to get a pair of testing rounds in the books.