At all levels in sports there always is the risk of athletes giving in to the world of performance-enhancing drugs.
For area high school coaches and athletic directors, keeping athletes clean can depend heavily on their ability to educate.
While a handful of states across the country have instituted performance-enhancing drug-testing systems for high school athletes, South Carolina is not one of them. The S.C. High School League’s handbook reads that it “is adamantly opposed to anabolic androgenic steroid use at the high school level. The issue goes beyond protecting the integrity of a sport. The use of steroids in sports is considered to be cheating.”
Without testing, which can be expensive, area coaches and athletic directors say they take on the responsibility of informing their athletes and preaching clean training.
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“That’s the biggest thing, just trying to educate them,” Conway athletic director and football coach Chuck Jordan said. “If somebody wants to do something, they’ll find a way to do it. But we try to talk to the kids and teach them about nutrition, [which] is the best way. We try to teach them how to hydrate and feed their body. Those are areas we try to emphasize. We talk to them about the cautions of putting the wrong things in their bodies.”
Jordan said it’s an issue that pops up from time to time nationally, and the reported doping confession from seven-time Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong during an interview Monday with Oprah Winfrey that will air this week, has brought performance-enhancers back into the spotlight.
“I do the weightlifting in the fall with all the sports teams and we talk to them about it,” St. James baseball coach Robbie Centracchio said. “Kids develop at different ages, so we try to stress proper nutrition. Protein stuff is about as far as I’ll go. We educate them on stuff that’s safe to do.”
Determining what’s safe can be a challenge itself, Centracchio said.
“There’s some things that are legal at some levels and not at others,” Centracchio said. “If you go into GNC they may promote something for weight gain or that’s high in protein that may have small amounts of something in it that could come up positive.
“Unless you know what you’re looking for, you [could wind up in trouble].”
However, many coaches say the threat of performance-enhancing drugs appears to be under control at area high schools.
“I think the coaches in Horry County – and I’ve been here 30-plus years – I think they stay on top of things,” Myrtle Beach girls tennis coach Jeri Himmelsbach said. “I don’t think there’s been a need for [testing].”
S.C. High School League commissioner Jerome Singleton said it’s impossible to eliminate the threat, but he also believes education is the best tool.
“If it goes on in Georgia and North Carolina with our state being between the two, we’d have our head in the ground if we think it’s not in South Carolina. I won’t say it’s not here,” he said. “But the position the high school league has taken is: Let’s educate. Let’s educate [the athletes] on the problems those things create and deal with those things.”
Jordan is aware the performance-enhancing drug issue is one that likely won’t go away anytime soon.
“The thing about the steroids it was a big deal for a while and then people just weren’t talking about it anymore,” he said. “From the high school level, I haven’t heard much discussion about it in some time. I’m not naive to think it doesn’t exist, but you can only deal with [things you experience].”