Editorial: Level the playing field

With the discovery of the prevalence of substances like Adderall in the West High athletic community, West Side Story’s Editorial Board takes a stance on drug testing high school student-athletes.

WSS Editorial Board

High school athletics are traditionally seen as a way for students to stay active, become part of a team and to find their niche. Hard work and a relentless will were the makings of a good athlete. Sports were about who was stronger, faster and just simply better. But times are changing.

Now when high school athletes take to their competition area, they’re stepping onto an unfair playing field. Student-athletes are currently taking amphetamine drugs like Adderall or caffeine supplements to stimulate their brains so they are hyper focused and resistant to fatigue. Instead of “me versus you,” it’s turned into “my drug versus you.” Sports are just as much of a mental game as they are a physical one, and this synthetic psychological edge is just plain old cheating.

With stimulants and other such substances on the rise in high school athletics, some schools across the nation have started to implement drug testing for student-athletes, and they have been given the power to drug test other students as well. In a five-to-four ruling in June 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the power of public schools in Pottawatomie County v. Earls by allowing them to test middle and high school students involved in any competitive extracurricular activity for illegal drugs. The Supreme Court deemed drug testing did not violate the Fourth Amendment that guarantees protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Since 2002, a study from the University of Pennsylvania shows 20 percent of U.S. high schools have started to implement some sort of drug-testing policy for athletes. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these tests mainly test for marijuana, amphetamines, opioids and cocaine/PCP.

But in Iowa there has been no movement towards the drug testing of student-athletes.

Iowa law does outline the legal parameters of when school officials may test students in Iowa Code 808A. School officials must have “articulable reason” to test students for drugs or alcohol. However this “articulable reason” is not always easily seen by school officials, making it hard for them to enforce such a law. This law does nothing to mention student-athletes, who represent their school in athletics.

The governing bodies of Iowa high school boys and girls athletics have shown no progress towards stopping athletes from cheating with the use of drugs. The Iowa High School Athletic Association’s website has a plethora of educational materials on alcohol, tobacco and anabolic steroids detailing harmful effects of these substances and ways for coaches and parents to approach such problems with their athletes. However, there is no mention of drug testing or consequences of abuse of such substances, as this is left to be determined by the member schools of the IHSAA. The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s website had no information on the effects and/or consequences of tobacco or alcohol or any other substance abuse.

Most high school athletes dream of taking their athletic talents to a college team, but if they can only perform well under the influence of a drug, they are in for a rude awakening. When the NCAA Division I and Division II athletes step onto campus, they are required to sign a letter allowing their school and the NCAA to conduct year-round drug testing. If they refuse to sign such a letter, then they are deemed ineligible to compete or practice. During the year-round testing, NCAA schools may test for certain classes of drugs outlined by the NCAA Board of Governors each year. Stimulants and street drugs a
re not generally tested in the year-round testing, but these classes are tested in NCAA championships and postseason bowl games. A failure of one of these drug tests could lead to indefinite ineligibility.

If student-athletes want to make their college career a reality, they should do it through hard work and healthy habits, not by altering their state of mind with a drug. And they should start these practices in high school.

The Iowa City Community School District has a responsibility to prepare students for their future and to teach healthy living habits. The district provides no materials on their website to educate their students about drug abuse, nor do they have any mention of substance abuse in their School Board’s policies. Drug testing student-athletes would show students that they are not invincible, are held to a high standard and would help level the playing field for all.