Licking Heights student-athletes are requesting drug testing - not because they believe a problem exists but because they believe drug testing would enhance the district's athletics programs, they said.

Licking Heights student-athletes are requesting drug testing - not because they believe a problem exists but because they believe drug testing would enhance the district's athletics programs, they said.

Other Licking County League districts are testing, as well, they said.

"They're getting a head start on the curve. They're not waiting for problems to occur," Licking Heights High School senior and student athletics council member Gabrielle Palombaro told the school board April 17.

Palombaro said athletics council members prefer a company called Sports Safe Testing Service carry out the tests at a cost of $28 per test. She said the company also tests for "adulterations" for free, or substances that alter urine samples, such as water or bleach. MEDTOX laboratories would process urine samples.

Palombaro said the testing would eliminate peer pressure to take drugs by providing an excuse not to do so. She said testing would also prevent the effects drug and alcohol use have on learning.

"It would allow (student athletes) to achieve their full success academically and athletically," Palombaro said, adding that the tests could detect alcohol, marijuana, and barbiturates, among other substances.

Athletics council member Andrew Griffin, a junior, told board members that drug tests would be confidential and a positive test would not affect student-athletes academically.

Griffin said an athlete who tests positive the first time would be required to take five follow-up drug tests and agree to be part of an assistance program or stop playing sports. A second positive result would result in a suspension from athletics for a year in addition to the follow-up tests. A student-athlete who tests positive a third time would be suspended from playing sports for the rest of his or her high school career.

"We think those punishments are pretty good," Griffin said.

Palombaro said since medications can create false-positive readings, a Sports Safe medical review officer would contact the athlete's physician to learn if the student is taking any sort of medication. If not, the test would be considered accurate and parents would be notified, as would the school principal.

"We're just looking for support on this," she said.

Palombaro said the athletics council members would like to begin testing next school year and she said Sports Safe assured her the tests are completely random.

Palombaro suggested having student-athletes pay for parking spaces to help raise money for the testing. She estimated doing so would raise roughly $2,500.

"It's a good start," she said.

Students could also seek sponsorship from organizations, such as hospitals.

"It's all about how we market ourselves," said Palombaro.

She said Sports Safe suggests 15 tests per two to three weeks, but the frequency is up to the athletics council.

"I think (testing) is very feasible," board president Richard Wand said. "We can make it happen."

As far as affording the tests, he said, the frequency could be increased as funding increases.

Realistically, Wand said, any random testing would cause student athletes to think twice before taking drugs or drinking alcohol.

"Any time students take an initiative like this, we'll take it seriously," Wand said.

He said he'd have to see a final proposal before giving the drug testing program his blessing, but, "so far, so good."