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Ending tests for drugs is the right move

Officials at Prospect High School are on the verge of dropping mandatory drug testing for student-athletes.

Superintendent Don Alexander recommended Monday night to the Prospect School Board that the policy be dropped.

With budget cuts looming for the 2002-2003 school year, Alexander says the $5,000 it costs to conduct the tests would be better spent somewhere else.

The board should heed his advice and end a policy that discriminates and, one could argue, violates the Fourth Amendment concerning illegal searches.

Butte Falls, Prospect's small-school neighbor and the only other school in Jackson County that drug tests its athletes, should follow suit.

I wrote about this subject a couple years ago but it bears repeating: Drug testing athletes is a bad idea. It's discriminatory because it targets one group - athletes - while overlooking others, such as the band, the math team and student government.

There's also a presumption of guilt, and the procedure can be degrading. Johnny, go into that room by the principal's office, make your deposit and bring it back to me.

It makes sense to drug test the operator of a fork lift, whose attention to detail can be vital to the welfare of co-workers around him. It makes sense to drug test a professional athlete, who's being paid a large salary and has an obligation to his team and fans to be at his best.

It makes no sense to drug test a sophomore shortstop.

What kids do with their spare time should be monitored by their parents and not by some chemist who studies the urine samples.

What makes the tests particularly ludicrous is that they don't check for alcohol, a substance that's difficult to trace after a day or two. As many parents and educators know, alcohol is the drug of choice for most students and, presumably, most student-athletes who choose to use.

Prospect and Butte Falls first adopted drug testing of their athletes in the mid-1990s, shortly after the Supreme Court upheld their legitimacy.

The tests' constitutionality is again coming under fire in Oklahoma, and the high court is expected to make a new ruling soon.

"If the court rules against them (the tests), then it's a moot point for us," Alexander says.

The Prospect superintendent, who also coaches the school's girls basketball team, has favored the tests in the past. But he wants them discontinued in light of the school's budget crunch.

"That money ($5,000) is the same amount we pay our basketball officials (for a season)," Alexander says.

FORMER NORTH MEDFORD

High track and field standout Scott Myers hasn't taken long to adjust to college track.

Myers, a freshman at Central Arizona College, recently launched the shot put 56 feet, 4 inches - the top mark among the nation's junior colleges.

Myers tossed the iron ball 62-11 last season for the Black Tornado, the fifth-longest mark in state history. The college shot put is four pounds heavier than the high school implement, and the difference in distance amounts to about 10 feet, Central Arizona coach Kurt Van Hazel says.

"It's a little surprising to see him doing this well this early, but he's a very dedicated kid," says Van Hazel, who led the Vaqueros to the national junior college championship in 1996. "We're really excited about his future."

Myers isn't faring as well in the discus. His top mark is 159 feet, well off his best throw of 180 feet that earned him a state championship at North Medford a year ago. The college discus is also heavier - 2.2 kilograms compared to 1.6 in high school.

"The transition is tougher in the discus," Van Hazel says. "But he'll get there. It's just a matter of time."

Van Hazel says Myers is interested in transferring to Oregon following his sophomore year at Central Arizona.

IT WON'T BE LONG

until Phoenix High wrestling coach Harry Mondale is back to his ornery self.

Mondale,70, will undergo surgery on April 17 to repair an aneurysm in the aorta of his heart. Mondale says the aneurysm is a hefty 6.2 centimeters in diameter.

The ailment kept Mondale from coaching at the Class 3A state tournament in late February, but the venerable coach plans to be back for his 34th season at Phoenix next winter.

Doctors have ordered Mondale to remain essentially idle until his surgery. He's spent a few days trout fishing on Lost Creek Lake with a neighbor but can't wait to return to his main passion outside wrestling - steelhead fishing on the Rogue River.

"My doctor tells me I can't pull on those oars, and I know that if I get out there I'll have a hard time not doing it," Mondale says.

Mondale has seven state championships and an equal number of runner-up finishes to his credit as the Phoenix coach.

Reach reporter at 776-4469, or e-mail