High school athletes use drugs and alcohol no more nor less than other students, but they may be more susceptible to abuse of steroids, according to Brice Durbin, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Durbin said there is "some" steroid use among high school athletes trying to increase their physical size. No statistics are available for steroid use, however, Durbin said, because use of the drug is "under the table."

"I think there is always the athlete who wants to excel so badly that they will do it," he said. "Often, they think they are immortal. If they are so eager to achieve and become a star, then they will pay whatever price it takes."

Durbin, who is working with the National Federation's TARGET drug abuse and prevention program, also said there might be some parents who "turn their heads" to use of steroids.

Durbin said studies have proved wrong those who claimed drug use was lower among students involved in sports and other activities. He added that athletes' popularity could result in more exposure to alcohol and drugs.

Athletic role models who become known for using steroids are a turn-off to younger athletes, Durbin said.

"I think any time a great athlete becomes known for using a performance-enhancing drug, it has to destroy some credibility," he said. "Even when athletes in the Olympic Games were caught for steroids, I think people looked at them as trying to gain an unfair advantage. I think people don't like that."

Drug testing on the collegiate level might have positive effects that filter down to high schools, said Durbin, who said the National Federation only supports testing that is combined with education programs.

TARGET, which emphasizes drug prevention through education, is just beginning to study steroids, Durbin said. The program provides information on drug abuse and prevention, trains volunteers and offers financial assistance for those needing rehabilitation.

"We're not trying to dry up the world," Durbin said. "The progress so far has been to get parents and students to get the issue on the table and talk about it. The denial is being broken down, and there was a lot of it before."

Durbin said the program specializes in working with student leaders, including athletes, to educate other students and to set up events such as nonalcoholic parties. "We've found that with leaders in school, what they think, what they do, is very important," he said. "If they can get {other students} involved in drugs, they can also pull them out of it."

Richard Stickle, formerly executive director of the Idaho State High School Activities Association, will become the program's full-time director Sept. 1. Bowie Kuhn, former commissioner of baseball, is president of TARGET, which has several prominent sports figures on its board of directors.