Parents of high school athletes speak out on performance-enhancing drugs

November 17, 2008 Volume 5 Issue 3
  • Nearly 1 in 10 parents of a high school athlete knows someone under 18 who has tried performance-enhancing drugs.
  • 3 out of 4 parents support random testing of high school athletes for performance-enhancing drugs.
  • Less than one-half of parents believe there should be individual penalties for high school athletes who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Several reports indicate that use of performance-enhancing (P-E) drugs by athletes in high school is increasingly common. Less well understood is what parents think schools should do to address PE drug use—particularly what the consequences should be.

In August 2008, the CS Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health asked parents of high school athletes about their awareness, attitudes and opinions related to P-E drug use.

Awareness and Communication

Parent responses to this poll confirms that P-E drug use is an important issue in high school athletics:

  • 9% of parents of high school athletes know someone under 18 who has tried P-E drugs.
  • 57% of parents have talked with their children about P-E drugs.
  • 97% of parents believe that high school coaches should be required to communicate the dangers of P-E drugs.

School Policies

Overall, parents support testing for P-E drugs in high school athletes:

  • 75% of parents favor random testing.
  • 76% of parents think schools should be required to report to the number and percentage of positive tests to the state.
  • However, only 43% of parents are in favor of reporting individual names of athletes who test positive.

Individual Penalties for Positive Test Results

Despite broad parental support for testing, there is only limited support for individual penalties for athletes who test positive. For example, roughly one-half of parents think that a positive test should result in the athlete being banned for the rest of the season and/or forfeiting an individual win or award. Only one-third of parents favor banning the athlete from all sports for a year, and only 19% would support forfeiting team wins or awards (Figure).

Implications

Performance-enhancing drugs are no longer just a concern for college and professional sports. In this poll, 1 in 10 parents of high school athletes report firsthand knowledge of P-E drug use in young people, and virtually all parents want the topic addressed by coaches. Parental concern translates to broad support for random testing of high school athletes for P-E drugs and for reporting aggregate test results to the state government. In contrast, far fewer parents support individual penalties for athletes who test positive, with only minimal support for team penalties. Schools and states that are considering options for P-E testing should expect differential levels of parental support for testing versus penalizing high school athletes.

Data Source

This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc, for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered in August, 2008 to a randomly selected, stratified group of adults aged 18 and older (n=2,245) with and without children from the Knowledge Networks standing panel that closely resembles the U.S. population. For this analysis, a subset of parents with high school athletes was used (n=332). The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 62% among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2 to 8 percentage points, depending on the question.

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Director: Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Associate Director: Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Manager & Editor: Dianne C. Singer, MPH
Data Analyst: Amy T. Butchart, MPH

This Report includes research findings from the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, which do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan. The University of Michigan reserves all rights over this material.

[Parents with children age 14-17, n= 332]

Performance-enhancing drugs are substances (such as steroids, testosterone, and human growth hormone) that are taken specifically for the purpose of improving sports performance.

1. Have you ever talked with your child(ren) about performance-enhancing drugs?

  • Yes
  • No

2. Do you know anyone younger than 18 in your community who has ever tried performance-enhancing drugs?

  • Yes
  • No

3. Does your oldest child’s school have a policy related to performance-enhancing drugs?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

4. Should all middle school and high school coaches be required to communicate with student athletes
the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs?

  • Yes
  • No

5. Should high school athletes be randomly tested for performance-enhancing drugs?

  • Yes
  • No

6. If a student tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs, which of the following should take place? (check all that apply)

  • Provide the student with a counseling and treatment program
  • Ban the student from the sports team for the remainder of the season
  • Ban the student from all sports teams for a school year
  • Inform the state high school athletic association
  • Forfeit any individual win, award or record received
  • Forfeit any team win or award received

7. Should schools be required to report the number and percentage of students who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs to the state government?

  • Yes
  • No

8. Who do you think should pay for the testing of high school athletes for performance-enhancing drugs? (check all that apply)

  • Schools
  • State government
  • Federal government
  • Parents/ player fee
  • Team funds

Participants were also asked demographic questions on age, gender, health status, annual household income, education, race/ ethnicity, health insurance status and the presence of children in the household. Parents were also asked questions regarding child(ren)’s age, gender and health status.

All information is the sole property of the University of Michigan CS Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health. It can only be used if there is an acknowledgment that "The information came from, is copyright by and is owned by and belongs to the Regents of the University of Michigan and their C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health. It cannot be republished or used in any format without prior written permission from the University."

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Director: Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Associate Director: Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Manager & Editor: Dianne C. Singer, MPH
Data Analyst: Amy T. Butchart, MS

Click on an image to download the full-size version

Support for action if high school athletes test positive for PE drugs