(AP) - High school football season in Texas kicks off this week with 491 games and still not one player tested for steroids by the state.
And when that'll finally happen remains unclear.
But the Houston lawmaker who wrote the mandatory random steroids testing bill said Tuesday that it could be October before the first Texas high school athlete is tested, since the state still has no company in place to implement the $3 million mandate.
"I don't know that September is very likely at this point," Sen. Kyle Janek said.
The University Interscholastic League maintained Tuesday that it would not commit to any timetable on when testing may begin. State officials said they are still sorting through proposals from 14 companies whose bids were due to the UIL in late July.
The high school football season begins Thursday. If testing does not begin until October, some teams will have played as many as five games _ or half their regular-season schedule.
UIL athletic director Charles Breithaupt also said that October is a likely more realistic target than September, but added that there is still a chance testing could begin next month.
Because the bill was not signed into law until June, Breithaupt said it wasn't reasonable to expect the program to be in place by the first week of football season. Not with the number of legal issues and entities involved, he said.
"We're just being very careful," Breithaupt said. "We don't want to be in the middle of a steroids program and find out that we missed a step."
More than 23,000 public high school students in all sports are expected to be tested for anabolic steroids under the new law, making the initiative the largest of its kind in the country.
Football players are doubtlessly among those who will be under the most scrutiny during steroids testing. Given that, Breithaupt reiterated his stance that any valid testing program must include football.
Janek agreed, saying it was important that the program doesn't skip athletes in any sport. Girls volleyball teams, for instance, began playing matches earlier this month.
"If you excluded a sport for whatever reason, you might skew the validity of it," Janek said. "Just because it's not up and running at the beginning of football season doesn't mean that it can't be ready to go in mid-October, late October."
Among the companies in the running for the state contract is the National Center for Drug Free Sport, which conducts testing for the NCAA and New Jersey and Florida, the only other states with mandatory random steroid tests for high school athletes.
That company and others that submitted bids have said testing could being within a week of being awarded the contract.