Despite privacy concerns, random drug tests for Illinois student athletes will continue

August 9, 2011

The governing body for Illinois high school sports will continue to randomly test students for performance-enhancing drugs, despite criticism that the tests are needlessly invasive.

The Illinois High School Association says of the 747 kids tested last school year, only four tested positive, and two of the cases were later thrown out. That's out of 348,789 student athletes who were eligible for the tests.

Despite the small scope of the program, the group's board voted Monday to continue the tests, anyway. A state law requiring the tests expired in June. Illinois is one of just three states that test high school athletes for PEDs.

IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman says the testing was never designed to be a dragnet, but it beats the alternative.

"Students would know that there is no opportunity for them to be tested," Hickman said. "And we think it's money well spent, simply to have a deterrent out there."

Students have to sign a waiver consenting to the tests if they want to compete in high school sports. But that's an invasion of privacy, said Adam Schwartz, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

"Our schools are teaching absolutely the wrong lesson by telling kids they've got to surrender their rights if they want to play a game of sports," Shwartz said.

Schools should do away with random drug testing and focus only on kids who are suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs, Shwartz said.