When it comes to awareness, steroids have their peaks and valleys. There are blind spots and blindingly bright ones. One favorite argument of those who get really upset with professional steroid users -- those in Major League Baseball, the NFL and elsewhere -- is, "Won't somebody think of the kids!" The notion is that if pros make it seem cool or even reasonable to use steroids, legions of young athletes will decide to do the same.
Of course this isn't necessarily true. Pro athletes do lots of stupid things. So do high schoolers. Any correlation therein is more likely coincidence than not.
Still, when it comes to testing high school athletes, why not, right? In a perfect world, knowledge of steroids -- of their downfalls, of the ways they risk health for a still-unproven effect on performance -- isn't enough of a deterrent. This is where testing comes in, and where the Illinois High School Association seems to get it right. The IHSA is already testing athletes. Now, that program seems set to expand:
But the new bill [...] would expand the number of students the IHSA tests annually from roughly 700 to 1,000 and allow testing outside of the postseason for the first time. The measure, which passed the Illinois Senate 56-0 and only needs Gov. Pat Quinn's signature to become law, would test students from at least 25 percent of state high schools beginning next fall. A Quinn spokeswoman said the legislation is under review.
The potential downsides here involve privacy issues, but as long as the IHSA is sensitive to the fact that they're dealing with high school kids, and not juiced-up, grown professionals, those issues should be minimal. (One other important note: The ability of high schoolers to get steroids -- the stuff's expensive and illegal and hard to obtain -- is overstated a bit here. How many kids did you know in high school that could get steroids? Exactly.) Meanwhile, the IHSA gets to threaten, ever so gently, the potential of a random drug test. It's not a perfect-world solution, but we don't live in a perfect world.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.