By DEANNA MARTIN
Associated Press Writer
INDIANAPOLIS -- High school athletes participating in football or baseball would be subject to random steroid testing, under a bill approved by a House committee Wednesday.
Indiana would join three other states in testing high school athletes for anabolic steroids if the bill passes. Bill sponsor Rep. Eric Turner, R-Marion, said the proposal could prevent some young people from taking illegal and potentially dangerous performance-enhancing drugs.
"Steroid use by (professional) athletes is a major problem in our country," Turner said. "Young athletes see them as heroes. We need to send a strong message."
The House Education Committee voted 7-3 Wednesday to advance the bill to the full House for consideration.
The bill requires just 1 percent of high school athletes in baseball and football to be randomly tested. The state has about 35,400 students participating in those two sports, according to the Indiana High School Athletic Association, so 354 students would be tested.
IHSAA commissioner Blake Ress said he wasn't opposed to random testing, but questioned details of how testing would work and who would pay for the program.
The bill says schools would use general fund money to pay for the tests, which cost between $80 and $120 each, according to the Legislative Services Agency. But Turner said he would consider changing the legislation so that the state would foot the bill -- approximately $40,000 to cover all tests statewide.
If a student tested positive for steroids, he would be suspended from athletic activities -- including practice and games -- for 90 school days, and would have to test negative before being allowed to return to sports.
Turner said he included football and baseball in the bill because they seem to be sports in which professional athletes have been involved with steroids. He said he was open to expanding the legislation to cover other sports.
Committee chair Rep. Gregory Porter, D-Indianapolis, said several details were left to be decided.
"There is a lot of work to be done on this legislation," said Porter, who voted for the bill. "If it's not fair, we shouldn't do it."
Rep. Paul Robertson, D-Depauw, voted against the bill.
"I simply don't see the need for this bill at this time," he said.
New Jersey was the first state to conduct random steroid testing of high school athletes. It's program, which began in the 2006-2007 school year, only tests students who participate in the postseason.
Texas has since passed a law calling for more widespread testing. Florida, the basis for Indiana's proposal, requires random testing among athletes in football, baseball and weightlifting.