Texas picks company to run massive steroids testing program

Updated: January 22, 2008, 4:11 PM ET
Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas -- The company that conducts drug testing for the NCAA, minor league baseball and other sports leagues has been chosen to run Texas' massive high school steroids testing program.

The National Center For Drug Free Sport was selected Tuesday to run the largest steroids testing program in the country, testing 40,000-50,000 public school athletes by the end of the 2008-09 school year.

Testing is expected to begin within weeks, although the University Interscholastic League, the governing body of Texas public school sports, declined to say exactly when.

Drug Free Sport competed with 13 other companies for the two-year, $6 million program. UIL officials said they wanted a contractor with a proven track record of reliability and expertise.

"We look forward to working closely with Drug Free Sport in implementing a first-class steroid testing program that we feel will be a model for other states and organizations to follow," UIL athletic director Charles Breithaupt said.

The tests were ordered by the state lawmakers concerned that young athletes may be taking illegal and potentially dangerous performance-enhancing drugs.

The Legislature wanted testing to begin before last football season, but delays over writing the program rules and finding a contractor pushed it back several months.

"With the testing company now under contract and testing just around the corner, I believe it will deter young people from risking their lives by abusing illegal steroids," said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the Republican who led the charge for testing.

Based in Kansas City, Mo., Drug Free Sport was created in 1999 by Frank Uryasz, who had been the director of sports sciences for the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Uryasz had developed the NCAA's drug testing program in the 1980s and his company has handled NCAA testing since 1999.

Drug Free Sport tests about 13,000 college athletes annually for the NCAA and has separate contracts with various leagues and about 200 colleges and universities around the country, spokesman Dan Regan said.

It also conducts drug testing of high school athletes in New Jersey and Florida. New Jersey was the first state to conduct random steroid testing of high school athletes and tested 500 athletes in its first year.

Bob Baly, assistant director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, praised Drug Free Sport's performance in his state.

"Extremely professional. It's not like they haven't done this before," Baly said. "They handle students very well. We've had no complaints."

New Jersey's program, which began in the 2006-2007 school year, tests students who participate in the postseason and must be renewed annually.

The Texas program is much broader. Every one of the approximately 764,000 public school athletes are eligible to be tested, whether their sport is in season or not.

To select athletes for testing, officials will first randomly select about 30 percent of school across the state. The schools provide lists of athletes in all sports.

Agents from Drug Free Sport randomly select athletes from the list and go to the schools to collect urine samples, which are sent to labs for testing. Students won't know they will be tested until they are pulled from class.

Drug Free Sport uses only laboratories accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, Regan said, and there are three in North America: the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the lab at WADA in Montreal.

"Drug Free Sport will rely on its vast experience in high school and collegiate steroid-use prevention in administering a top-notch program across the state of Texas," Uryasz said.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press