Their names have become synonymous with steroids.
Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro and Ben Johnson have all been connected to full-blown, performance-enhancing drug scandals.
The main talk leading up to last Sunday’s Super Bowl had to do with use of a banned PED. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was accused of using deer antler spray to help accelerate his return from a mid-October torn triceps injury.
Of course, he denied the accusation, which is typical anytime a star athlete gets caught dipping his hand in the cookie jar one too many times.
It’s no secret the use of steroids has trickled down to high school athletics in Pennsylvania. Some of those users get their start as early as junior high.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, more commonly known as the PIAA, is the main governing body for high school sports in the state.
The PIAA has a steroids policy for eligibility requirements, but there is no mandatory drug testing statewide.
“Are steroids out there? Yes. And everybody is concerned about it statewide,” PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said last week.
By state law, all Pennsylvania school districts are required to adopt and enforce rules and regulations prohibiting the use of anabolic steroids, except for a valid medical purpose, by students involved in athletics.
School boards are also required to establish penalties for students who violate the adopted rules and regulations. However, the penalties can vary in each district.
“The fact every school has to have a policy in place for steroid use has been good for us,” Lombardi said. “It’s a credit to our athletic directors and coaches. They are very concerned about the health and safety of the athlete.
“And with 60 percent of our schools having athletic trainers on staff, they monitor their kids pretty closely. Some of our schools have drug testing. I think our schools have done a great job of getting in front of the curve on this one.”
Eye on ‘heat illness’
The PIAA is feeling the heat, so to speak, and changes could be on the way as early as August.
Lombardi said an ad-hoc committee that deals with football issues will meet with a football steering committee next month to discuss a heat acclimatization plan.
“Somewhere, there’s going to be three days on the schedule, hopefully before practice starts, where kids are going to come in and work out as a team without any contact, to get ready for the heat,” Lombardi said. “It will be mandatory, since heat illness is a big issue nowadays.”
The two football committees also will discuss cutting the number of days for contact in practice back to three.
“I think it would be very user-friendly for the athlete because going through a full football season is tough enough,” Lombardi said. “The coaches have done a great job with this, but they are the ones offering their input, saying, `Hey, you ought to put this rule in across the board.’”
PSU and the PIAA
National Signing Day was Wednesday for the Class of 2013.
Penn State signed 12 players in its first recruiting class since heavy NCAA sanctions were handed down last summer, to go along with the five other players who enrolled in January, but count against last year’s class.
The Nittany Lions landed five-star quarterback Christian Hackenberg and tight end Adam Breneman, an early enrollee who is one of five players from schools in the Keystone State.
“I think Penn State has an outstanding man in coach (Bill) O’Brien.” Lombardi said. “I was fortunate to meet him and his staff when they came to our (PIAA) championships (in December). It was terrific that they were all there.
“They are always welcome in Hershey. I hope they come on an annual basis.”
The PIAA staged its team wrestling championships in Class AA and Class AAA Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
The individual tournament will take place next month.
Lombardi is happy to see that Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson has been able to keep the state’s top wrestling recruits in-state.
The two-time NCAA champions have 27 wrestlers from Pennsylvania on their roster.
“I think every one of our tops kids that he could get in the last few years, he has gotten,” Lombardi said. “The other beauty of it is, other very good kids are also staying home and going to Lehigh, Pitt, Bloomsburg and Lock Haven.
“I know it might sound selfish, but I think it’s important that our Pennsylvania athletes stay in Pennsylvania.”
Ron Musselman is a freelance writer living in Centre County. Follow him on Twitter@ronmusselman8.