Florida’s Decision Could Hurt Argument’s Credibility

florida41While watching Alex Rodriguez’s press conference today, I caught a brief but interesting blurb on ESPNews’ ticker. The blurb essentially reported this story. To summarize, Florida has ended its high school steroid-testing program because the benefit didn’t justify the cost:

Florida’s pilot steroid-testing program has been eliminated, the result of budget concerns from state officials who said they cannot justify spending the $100,000 needed to do the testing.

Only one steroid user was found among 600 teens tested. Tests were randomly administered at 53 schools, at a cost of $166 apiece.

The decision leaves just three states — New Jersey, Illinois and Texas — that test high school athletes for steroids.

This development is interesting in light of the steroid-induced frenzy currently engulfing Major League Baseball. From the very beginning of the steroids issue, everyone from athletes to Congressmen has cited the danger these drugs pose to young people as a primary impetus behind this crusade. Athletes under suspicion are asked “what kind of example are you setting?” and “how could you possibly explain this to young people for whom you serve as a role model?” In testimonies and hearings, press conferences and interviews, we have been told that the use of steroids amongst young people is a very real problem with very real consequences. All of this, we are told, is why this issue matters.

I often stress the importance of sample size when evaluating information, so I must be careful not to over-state my case here. But I find it incredibly interesting that just 0.16% of eligible Florida high school football players, baseball players, and weightlifters tested positive for steroids. It is a small sample in one state, which is not enough information to disprove the idea that steroids are a problem in high school athletics. It is, however, more information than we had before, and thus far it suggests that maybe Major League Baseball and Congress have been getting their knickers in a twist about a relatively small issue.

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