Injecting money into drug-abuse education programs makes more sense than involuntary drug testing, local pediatricians say.

Local doctors Joe Jopling and Richard Siegler agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics, who are speaking out against involuntary drug testing of high school athletes, which they say is a violation of an adolescent's rights.In a policy statement, the national organization of 37,000 pediatricians condemned the use of all illegal drugs by children and adolescents but said it is unethical to subject "older, competent adolescents" to drug tests without their consent.

Michelle Pixler-Parish, director of the local American Civil Liberties Union, has also spoken out strongly against involuntary drug testing because it abridges students' rights.

"Drug testing in the schools - where is this going to end?" she asked. "Are we going to consider drug testing of kindergarten?"

"Drug testing is controversial at best, and how effective it is, I don't know," Jopling said.

For one thing, common urine analysis tests can't detect evidence of dextromethorphan, which is being currently abused by some Utah teenagers who are guzzling cough medicine for a quick high.

"This is more an issue of a person's freedoms and confidentiality than a health issue," said Richard Siegler, president of the Utah Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "I'm impressed that most pediatricians respect and view their patients, not as kids, but as individuals with greater and lesser degrees of maturity."

The national academy disapproved of involuntary drug tests being a requirement for youths who want to participate in high school sports programs, such as required by at least one Indiana school district. They say that's an unfair discrimination against athletes, who are no more likely to abuse illegal substances than their peers.

Siegler said he is not aware of any Utah school district that is considering mandatory drug testing. But he said consent testing, such as that to check use of steroids among high school athletes who agree to the practice, is a different matter.

The national academy's statement said for testing to be truly voluntary a subject must give informed consent, be guaranteed confidentiality and suffer no consequences if they refuse.

Dr. Kenneth Schonberg, who led one of the panels that wrote the policy, said that older adolescents can be considered those age 15 or older. Younger patients are generally treated as children by their doctors, and consent is not required for medical procedures.

But Jopling said such an age distinction is arbitrary, and must be adapted to the maturity of each individual teenager.