Recent news stories about professional athletes using banned performance-enhancing drugs have led local school officials to begin the conversation at the high school level.
Hall County and Gainesville City schools have joined with Riverside Military Academy and Lakeview Academy to stress the message that synthetic steroids, growth hormones and other illegal substances are banned in their schools and athletic programs.
A private presentation will be held Sept. 4 with coaches and athletes from the four systems invited to participate.
The idea initially stemmed from a conversation Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield had with Greg Cochran, a former law enforcement officer and now owner of Old Skl Fitness LLC.
Being engaged in the fitness world, he said he has been around steroids for quite some time.
“I’ve competed against them, enforced laws on them and I’ve seen the adverse effects of them, and what they can especially do to our kids,” Cochran said.
He said that use of performance-enhancing drugs is a growing trend among young athletes, saying some studies say there is an average of 5 to 7 percent of middle school students experimenting in steroid use.
“A lot of that is the pressure to perform, whether it be direct or indirect,” he said.
At the Aug. 12 work session of the Hall County Board of Education, Superintendent Will Schofield said that there may be as many as 1.5 million high school students in the country dabbling in these drugs.
“Although we don’t have any direct evidence that our students are doing that, it would be pretty naive and Pollyanna-ish to think that our students aren’t some of those 1.5 million,” Schofield said.
The Sept. 4 presentation will be recorded to share online and with other schools.
Schofield said coaches will be able to use the information provided as a way to connect with their teams. Hall Director of Community Relations Gordon Higgins said it would be a way to connect with multiple systems across the state.
“We are going forward with this initiative, mainly just to bring more awareness ... about the fact that this could be in our community,” Higgins said.
“The feeling is that this would be a good time, at the beginning of the school year.”
The local focus on performance-enhancing drugs comes when the national spotlight has been on professional athletes like baseball player Alex Rodriguez, who has been accused of using steroids. Rodriguez denies the claims and has appealed a decision to suspend him from playing for this season and next.
Perhaps the most well-known admitted user of performance-enhancing drugs is cyclist Lance Armstrong, who a year ago had 14 years of his career records wiped aware by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Those 14 years included his seven Tour de France wins.
The main goal of the September meeting is to get the correct information out to student athletes.
“I really feel like the information is not readily available,” said Cochran. “It’s just to educate them, and increase awareness.”