Outcomes of a Prospective Trial of Student-Athlete Drug Testing: The Student Athlete Testing Using Random Notification (SATURN) Study

Linn Goldberg, Diane L. Elliot, David P. MacKinnon, Esther L. Moe, Kerry S. Kuehl, Myeongsun Yoon, Aaron Taylor, Jason Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Purpose: To assess the effects of random drug and alcohol testing (DAT) among high school athletes. Methods: This was a 2-year prospective randomized controlled study of a single cohort among five intervention high schools with a DAT policy and six schools with a deferred policy, serially assessed by voluntary, confidential questionnaires. DAT school athletes were at risk for random testing during the full academic year. Positive test results were reported to parents or guardians, with mandatory counseling. Indices of illicit drug use, with and without alcohol use, were assessed at the beginning and end of each school year for the past month and prior year. Potential mediating variables were evaluated. Results: Student-athletes from intervention and control schools did not differ in past 1-month use of illicit drug or a combination of drug and alcohol use at any of the four follow-up periods. At the end of the initial school year and after 2 full school years, student-athletes at DAT schools reported less drug use during the past year (p < .01) compared to athletes at the deferred policy schools. Combining past year drug and alcohol use together, student-athletes at DAT schools reported less use at the second and third follow-up assessments (p < .05). Paradoxically, DAT athletes across all assessments reported less athletic competence (p < .001), less belief authorities were opposed to drug use (p < .01), and indicated greater risk-taking (p < .05). At the final assessment, DAT athletes believed less in testing benefits (p < .05) and less that testing was a reason not to use drugs (p < .01). Conclusions: No DAT deterrent effects were evident for past month use during any of four follow-up periods. Prior-year drug use was reduced in two of four follow-up self-reports, and a combination of drug and alcohol use was reduced at two assessments as well. Overall, drug testing was accompanied by an increase in some risk factors for future substance use. More research is needed before DAT is considered an effective deterrent for school-based athletes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-429
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Adolescent
  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • High school
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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