- The Washington Times - Monday, December 30, 2002

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Student-athletes subject to random drug testing at an Oregon high school were almost four times less likely to use drugs than their counterparts at a similar school who were not tested, a study shows.
The one-year pilot study by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University compared Wahtonka High School in The Dalles, where all student-athletes were subject to random testing, and Warrenton High School, a demographically similar school near Astoria, where they were not tested.
Of the 135 athletes subject to the random testing at Wahtonka, 5.3 percent said they were using illicit drugs by the end of the school year, versus 19.4 percent of the 141 athletes at Warrenton.
They also were three times less likely to use performance-enhancing substances such as steroids, according to the survey responses, which were confidential.
The study, conducted during the 1999-2000 school year, was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an arm of the National Institutes of Health. The results are published in next month's Journal of Adolescent Health.
"The differences between the schools were dramatic," said Linn Goldberg, a lead researcher in the study. "And the differences between the nonathletes who were not tested at either school but who filled out questionnaires about drug use were not significantly there." The number of nonathletes reporting drug use were 32.2 percent at Warrenton and 26.6 percent at Wahtonka.
The study comes six months after the issue was thrown into the spotlight by the U.S. Supreme Court. In June, the court ruled that children attending public schools can be required to participate in drug testing if they join any competitive after-school activity, including football and chess.
Merry Holland, principal at Wahtonka, said the school has continued to test athletes after the study ended.
She said she believes the program has helped curb drug use. But, she said, the drug testing also has led some students to switch to substances that are more difficult to track, such as beer.
"There are a lot of parties with alcohol," she said. "If they want to stay with sports and participate, they might switch to something they think is harder to detect."
During the past few years, about 5 percent of schools nationwide have required drug tests for athletes. About 2 percent have tested students who participate in other activities.

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