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Pat Litowitz/NEWS New Castle Area School District student-athlete wait in line to provide urine samples.

No hall pass required. This was a planned bathroom break for 500 student-athletes.

Handed water-filled cups for added encouragement, New Castle Area School District students offered urine samples as part of the district’s random drug testing program.

Assistant high school principal Robert Razzano oversees the program, now in its third year. Seventh-grade teacher April Caldarelli and high school secretary Debra Carr assisted.

“It’s absolutely a legitimate deterrent,” Razzano said. “There’s no question about it.

“It really hits our kids where it motivates them most. They want to play. They want to be involved in that activity.”

The district budgets $35,000 for the program. That covers approximately 1,300 tests at a cost of $27 per analysis.

“I think it’s worth it,” explained one football player, who was not identified because he is a minor. “Some kids who used to get in trouble during the day, they realized the potential for getting caught and not playing in their sport.”

Sport Safe Testing Service, an independent drug testing company in Powell, Ohio, collects the samples.

“The school district does not touch the testing at all,” Razzano said.

From the pool of athletes, the company generates a random selection using the student’s identification number and provides it to Razzano.

“We will test those kids approximately twice a month,” he said. “Every testing date we will get a new list.

“We pull these kids out of class and take them down to the nurse’s room for a sample.”

The district intervenes when a positive sample for drugs is reported.

Before Razzano is notified, the testing company calls the athlete’s parents to make sure no mistakes were made and to determine what medication the student takes.

If an illegal substance is confirmed, Razzano and the athlete’s coach are notified. Results are not provided to law enforcement.

A first offense results in a 14-day suspension, five more weeks of drug testing, an assessment by a licensed counselor and referral to a state-mandated student assistance program.

“There are two words that are key: prevention and intervention,” Razzano said. “It’s a tool to help kids from going down that road and using drugs. It’s an intervention. If we find out the kids are doing drugs, then we intervene.”

Last year, 13 of 529 athletes (337 high school and 192 junior high) had positive drug tests.

While the district has a policy against the use of steroids, they are not included in the testing procedure.

Costs are the prohibitive factor. Detecting steroids in a urine sample raises the price from $27 to $52.

“There’s athletes definitely using that,” Razzano said. “It’s prevalent. The over-the-counter stuff needs to be controlled.”

Razzano said he and the district’s coaches stress the dangers of steroids.

“It’s a short-term fix,” he said. “It’s killing your organs.”

Two student-athletes agreed.

“It really doesn’t do anything,” he said. “It’s all in your mind. If you want to get bigger, you have to lift (weights).”

“It never really crossed my mind,” another said. “If you want to be good at something, you have to work at it.”

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