Senate OKs steroid bill, rejects transgender concerns


Highlights

Bill’s Republican author says his intent is to ensure safe, fair play in high school sports.

Democratic opponents say the bill would unfairly target transgender students taking prescribed steroids.

Rejecting arguments that the bill was meant to target transgender student athletes, the Texas Senate gave initial approval Tuesday to legislation that would crack down on steroid use in high school.

Senate Bill 2095 would give the University Interscholastic League, which oversees public high school athletics, the power to declare students ineligible to compete based on steroid use, even if it is prescribed and administered by a physician.

“We need to make sure we have a safe and fair environment for our students to compete in athletic events,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, accused Hall of dodging repeated questions about the bill’s true intent, which she said was to discriminate against transgender students who use prescribed steroids to transition to their male-identified gender.

“This would have a negative impact on transgender students who compete in some events. It seems to me, on its face, it has everything to do with that,” Garcia said. “All young people should have the ability to compete in UIL sports while having their personal dignity respected.”

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Hall denied that SB 2095 had anything to do with transgender issues, at one point asking Garcia if she was trying to impugn his character when she rejected his explanations.

SB 2095 would let the UIL determine, on a case by case basis, whether the steroid use provided an unfair advantage, Hall said. “If, in their evaluation, they say what is being taken does not give the student an unfair advantage … then they could compete,” he said.

Sen. Jose Menéndez, D-San Antonio, said there was no established need to crack down on steroid use, noting that the Legislature stopped funding a testing program after only two of 2,633 students tested in 2013-14 were found to have used steroids.

Menéndez proposed an amendment to give the UIL the discretion to make exceptions for students who are transitioning, “providing equal opportunity for transgender students.”

That amendment, and a similar one from Garcia, was rejected on a 20-11 party-line vote.

The Senate followed by granting initial approval to SB 2095, requiring a final vote Wednesday before the bill can be sent to the House. All 20 Senate Republicans voted for the bill, as did four Democrats: Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen, Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, Carlos Uresti of San Antonio and Royce West of Dallas.



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