The Florida High School Athletic Association will review its policies on performance-enhancing drugs following an allegation that its athletes were among the customers of the shuttered clinic at the center of the baseball scandal.
The FHSAA said it has no proof to substantiate the claims of former Biogenesis employee Porter Fischer, who has told The Associated Press and other media outlets in recent days that he saw the clinic's operator give PEDs to high school players.
But, as the state association sees it, even the mere suggestion that youngsters are involved with PEDs is reason enough to act.
"It's an issue that we have to address head-on,'' said Florida Sen. Bill Monford, a former school principal and superintendent. "And quite frankly, in my opinion, this is not a finger-pointing exercise. It's truly an acknowledgment that we've got a problem and we also have a responsibility to address this issue. And we have to address it with vigor because if we don't, the lives of many of our student-athletes ... can be so negatively impacted.''
The announcement came one day after Major League Baseball disciplined 13 players, including Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, for having ties to Biogenesis, a clinic accused of distributing banned performance enhancers.
Fischer has said that the clinic's operator, Anthony Bosch, sold PEDs to a number of high school athletes, and that he came forward with those allegations with hopes that law enforcement would take a deeper look into what the clinic did before its doors closed.
The FHSAA said it read those claims, and the association's director called them "a wake-up call.''
"We have received no proof or no evidence,'' said Dr. Roger Dearing, the FHSAA's director. "We don't know if the NFL or the NBA or the baseball league has, but it's obvious to us that through the news coverage that there is an issue with the Biogenesis lab in South Florida.''
Rodriguez, who is appealing baseball's ruling, was suspended for 211 games for what baseball said were his links to Biogenesis. His high school coach, Rich Hofman, said he was disappointed but not necessarily surprised when he heard allegations of high schoolers getting PEDs from the clinic.
"People will do anything today to get an edge, even on this level,'' Hofman said. "There's so much money in this game and people's eyes are so big. ... You can do all the talking you want, you can put in all the legislation you want, but there will always be people trying to get an edge. Somebody is out there and if there's a way, they're going to try to beat the system.''
It's unclear what will actually happen through this review, or how school districts could fund additional testing of athletes.
In 2004, a state lawmaker proposed that Florida's schools, as a condition of their membership in the state athletic association, test athletes randomly for steroids. A pilot program started about three years later, with more than 500 tests turning up just one positive result for steroids. But steroid testing alone is cost-prohibitive for many school districts. More sophisticated tests, such as ones to detect HGH, are even more expensive.
Still, Florida wants its athletes to at least be better educated on the dangers.
"Quite frankly, it's a problem that must be dealt with,'' Dearing said.