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Legislation Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Albert Coutinho and L. Grace Spencer sponsored to help curtail steroid use in student-athletes was released Thursday by the Assembly Education Committee.

“Athletes are competitive by nature, always looking for an edge over the competition,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “But when an athlete gambles with their health to get that edge, through steroids or other performance enhancing drugs, the results can have a lifetime of negative consequences, especially when the athletes in question are under 18.”

The bill (A-2454) would codify recommendations from the 2005 Governor’s Task Force on Steroid Use and Prevention, establishing measures to deter the use of steroids and other performance enhancing supplements in middle school and high school athletes.

“Many teenage athletes may view steroids as a quick way to get to the top of their game, without thinking about or even being aware of the consequences,” said Coutinho (D-Essex). “Improving how we educate them about the dangers of performance enhancing drugs will help keep them healthy now and years down the road.”

Under the bill, the state Department of Education (DOE) and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Atletic Association (NJSIAA) would work jointly to develop and implement – by the 2010-2011 school year – a program of random steroid testing of student athletes who qualify to compete in championship tournaments sanctioned by the NJSIAA.

It would require all public school coaches and non-public interscholastic sports, dance and cheerleading coaches to incorporate into the team’s training regimen a gender-specific program designed to reduce the use of steroids, alcohol and other drugs and to promote healthy nutrition and exercise. The program would need to be approved by the athletic director of the district or private school before implementation.

“Coaches as well as student athletes need to fully understand the dangers of steroid use and abuse,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “The earlier we can impress this on our student athletes, the better their health – both mental and physical – will be as adults.”

The bill would also require the NJSIAA to develop and implement – by the 2010-2011 school year – a steroid and performance enhancing supplement prevention information program for all public and non-public middle school and high school coaches and athletic directors designed to:

· Provide coaches and athletic directors with information on the dangers of steroids and performance enhancing supplements;
· Identify the use of steroids and performance enhancing supplements in student athletes; and
· Effectively incorporate healthy alternatives for strength building into coaches’ training programs.

In addition, the bill would require the NJSIAA to provide anti-steroid advertisements in any brochure, pamphlet, handout, program, book or other material produced for sale or distribution at an NJSIAA-sanctioned tournament. It also would require the DOE to post information and materials about preventing steroid abuse on its website.

Finally, the bill would establish the third week in September as “Steroid Awareness Week” in New Jersey and would require school districts to organize activities to raise awareness of the hazards of using steroids and performance enhancing supplements.

The bill now heads to the Assembly Speaker, who decides if and when to post it for a floor vote.