Being a student-athlete can be a great experience, whether in high school or college. Athletes get to play a sport they love at a high level, and some students go on to have a portion of their college tuition paid for by athletic scholarships. However, student-athletes can face unique challenges. Student-athletes in both college and high school have to endure long practices and training sessions while also performing well in school.

Student-athletes also have to take part in random drug testing. You may be questioning whether drug testing student-athletes is legal, and the straightforward answer is “yes.”

In 2002, the Supreme Court expanded the instances in which students can be randomly drug tested. In the case of Board of Education v. Earls, the Supreme Court held that an Oklahoma school policy of randomly drug testing students who participated in non-athletic, competitive extracurricular activities was constitutional. Judging by the findings of the U.S. Supreme Court and various state courts, it seems as though the approach to drug testing student-athletes won’t be changing anytime soon.

In 2006, New Jersey became the first state to embrace a statewide steroid testing policy for high school athletes. This came as a reaction to statistics from the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimated that almost 6% of high school students nationwide use steroids or performance-enhancing drugs. Individual school districts in other states, such as Pennsylvania, also test athletes for steroids. It seems likely that many other states will observe this trend and allow for steroid testing.

The Supreme Court has upheld random drug testing for high school students involved in extracurricular activities. While they have not yet heard a challenge to New Jersey’s law, likely, they would also uphold random steroid testing for high school athletes.

What Types of Performance Enhancing Drugs May My Child Be Tested For?

Under the New Jersey plan, schools will test athletes for anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs such as amphetamines. Further, schools will test for diuretics used to mask the presence of drugs in the urine. In all, about 100 banned substances can be tested for.

It is essential to mention that many products formerly sold legally at health and nutrition stores and on the internet are now prohibited. These include androstene and products containing ephedra.

What Will Happen If My Student-Athlete Tests Positive for Steroids or a Performance Enhancing Drug?

It depends on what your state or school district policy is. In most circumstances, your child will be suspended from participating in athletics. Following positive tests may lead to a permanent prohibition from athletic participation.

Can Schools Conduct Random Drug Testing?

The United States Supreme Court upheld a public school district’s authority to randomly drug test middle and high school students who participate in extracurricular activities.

The court held that random drug testing effectively meets the school district’s legitimate concern regarding detecting and controlling illegal drug use by students. This ruling greatly expands public schools’ drug testing policies.

Are All Public Schools Required to Conduct Random Drug Tests?

A school is not required to randomly drug test students who participate in extracurricular activities. But a school district has the option to enforce a drug testing policy. The school district or the school board usually enacts the drug testing policy the same way other school regulations are enacted.

What Types of School Drug Testing Programs Are There?

There are two main types of drug testing programs, voluntary and mandatory drug testing programs, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The following are the most typical attributes of each.

Voluntary Drug Testing

  • Usually, students elect to participate in a random drug testing program to lessen punishment for using an illegal substance.
    School policy determines when testing will happen, how often testing will happen, and who pays for the testing.

Mandatory Drug Testing

  • Applies only to students who participate in extracurricular activities (e.g., sports).
    School policy specifies when and how often testing will happen. Usually, the school policy is to test the entire team at the start of the season and randomly test a certain percentage of the team during the season.

Are Government Certified Drug Testing Laboratories Required?

Government-certified testing facilities can authenticate the accuracy of the results and should be used. Any lab used by a school also should be certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

What Happens If I Fail a Drug Test?

It depends on the school’s drug-testing program and policies. Usually, a student that fails a drug test is prohibited from participating in extracurricular activities for the rest of the season.

What Should I Do if I Fail a Drug Test?

If you fail a drug test (test positive), deny that you have taken any illegal substances and demand a retest. Drug tests are unreliable, and many individuals who have never used drugs have tested positive for drugs (called a false positive).

Drug Testing Policies

Since it’s legal to randomly drug test student-athletes in college and high school, it’s essential to know some information about drug testing. Each school district will govern the drug testing policy for high school students, so you’ll have to look into your particular district’s policy to know where you or your student-athlete stands regarding drug testing. The National Drug Institute provides some background information on drug testing in schools for more general information.

NCAA Drug Testing

While drug testing policies vary from high school to high school, colleges have some uniformity because the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sets fundamental guidelines for drug testing student-athletes. The NCAA website has a page dedicated to frequently asked questions about drug testing student-athletes.

Currently, the NCAA bans drugs by class, including any substance-related chemically to that class. Some examples of prohibited drugs are street drugs, anti-estrogens, anabolic agents, and stimulants. The NCAA also bans masking agents, such as diuretics.

The punishment for a positive test for a performance-enhancing or street drug is severe and automatic:

  • A student athlete’s first positive test results in losing one full year of eligibility and exclusion from competition for an entire season.
  • If a student-athlete tests positive for a street drug a second time, they will lose another year of eligibility and will be unable to participate in the competition for another year.
  • A student-athlete who tests positive for a performance-enhancing drug a second time becomes permanently ineligible.

What Should I Do if My Child Fails a Drug Test?

If your child fails a drug test, they should deny taking a performance-enhancing drug and demand a retest. Drug tests are unreliable, and many people who have never used drugs have tested positive (called a false positive).

If you know or think that your child has taken steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs, you may want to discuss the potential dangers associated with them. Useful information can be found at www.drugfree.org.

Do I Need a Lawyer if My Child Fails a Steroid Test?

You should contact a juvenile attorney if you feel that a school steroid test violated your child athlete’s rights. A lawyer will be able to advise you on the legality of the drug testing policy and can help you fight a false-positive test result or appeal a disciplinary action.