Jump to content

Steroids are readily available and commonly used by students

Recommended Posts

This is from a Texas news paper


Staff Writers

Steroids are readily available and commonly used by students in North Texas high schools, a Dallas Morning News investigation has found.

From the affluent suburbs of Plano and Colleyville to rural-flavored communities such as Weatherford and Archer City, teenagers are popping pills and sticking themselves with needles in their search for athletic fame or a chiseled physique.

"Steroids have made a massive comeback" in high schools over the last decade, said Mike Long, a veteran Texas high school football coach. Mr. Long abused steroids as a young athlete and now counsels teenagers about the dangers of the muscle-building drugs, which include liver damage, tumors, sexual impotency, erratic mood swings and potentially suicidal depression.

Yet, as Major League Baseball toughens its stance toward doping and as the NCAA steps up efforts to police drug cheats in collegiate athletics, high school students are turning to steroids with little fear of exposure. Researchers have documented extensive high school steroid use for more than a decade, but coaches and school administrators have largely ignored the issue, and parents seem unaware.

In a rare admission by a school district, Grapevine-Colleyville officials disclosed last week that nine athletes had confessed to having used steroids last spring. The disclosure came after The Dallas Morning News had confirmed steroid use at Colleyville Heritage High School and posed detailed questions to school officials.

The Colleyville investigation was part of the paper's broader examination of high school steroid use. The News interviewed more than 100 current and former high school students, coaches and parents about steroids in high schools. More than 25 of these people described their personal encounters with illegal steroid use. These anecdotal accounts are supported by survey data from Texas school districts and national studies.

Among the findings of The News' four-month investigation:

•High school students easily obtain steroids, often from dealers who are friends, classmates and sometimes varsity athletes.

•Coaches rarely confront players or alert their parents, even when they suspect steroid use. Some cite the fear of a lawsuit from angry parents as a reason for remaining silent.

•Federal and local law enforcement agencies devote little time to curbing steroid use because of tight resources and more urgent drug-related priorities.

•The Internet serves as a virtual hangout where teenagers and adults exchange information about buying and using steroids and pick up tips on managing side effects. Although dozens of Web sites sell steroids, The News found that area high school students prefer to buy the banned drugs from a friend or acquaintance.

•Many teenage steroid users are non athletes. Inspired by the sculpted bodies of teen models and ubiquitous images equating muscularity with sex appeal, these "vanity" users take steroids to impress classmates and potential girlfriends.

•Steroids lead teens to abuse other drugs as they attempt to manage steroid side effects such as sexual impotency, suppression of natural testosterone production and mood swings by taking Viagra, the fertility drug Clomid and sedatives.

Hundreds of thousands of teenagers across America are using anabolic steroids, studies and surveys show. A Texas A&M University survey on substance abuse two years ago contained a stunning revelation that went disregarded or unnoticed by school officials, coaches and the media: Nearly 42,000 Texas students in grades seven through 12 – about 2.3 percent – had taken steroids. Researchers say the number almost certainly understates the true size of the problem.

Usage by students in those grades remained about the same in a more recent Texas A&M survey, which will be published this year. And more than 32 percent of Texas high school juniors and seniors said steroids were "somewhat easy" or "very easy" to get.

Few high schools test students for illegal drugs, and fewer still spend the extra money to screen for steroids. Seldom does a coach raise the issue or single out a suspected cheater. Rarest of all is the high school steroid user who admits his secret or is caught in the act.

"In my 58 years, other than pedophilia, I've never witnessed a behavior as secretive as this," said Charles Yesalis of Penn State University, a pioneering researcher and writer on youth steroid use. "People will tell you they smoked pot, they did coke, they did speed, they did crank, they smacked their wife, they smacked their girlfriend long before they tell you they used anabolic steroids. The higher you go up the athletic food chain, the more pronounced this becomes."

Mike Hughes (right), head football coach and athletic director at Plano West Senior High, says he's more concerned about alcohol and marijuana use among his players than he is about steroids.

Only occasionally is the veil of steroid secrecy pulled back in a high school. A suicide or a lucky police search exposes a user. Or a parent stumbles across a bottle of pills or a vial of liquid in a child's room.

Established problem

Teenage steroid use isn't a new phenomenon. Weatherford businessman Eldon Pyle recalls taking the steroid Dianabol as a high school athlete in the early 1970s. He got the drug from his family doctor – a common practice before the federal government toughened steroid laws in the early 1990s.

Before the disclosure last week that nine athletes at Colleyville Heritage High School had used steroids, the school's head football coach told The News that he believed the problem was much worse in the 1970s than today. Coach Chris Cunningham said he discussed steroids openly with a judge in his hometown of DeSoto in the 1970s, when he was a senior on the high school football team.

When he asked the judge if it was true that steroids would make a man sterile, the judge pointed to his two children and assured the young athlete that wasn't the case.

"He said, 'That's my two kids – what do you think, because I've been doing them for a long time,' " Mr. Cunningham said. "That's the kind of stuff that was thrown out there to high school kids."

In 1991, the federal government designated anabolic steroids as Schedule III controlled substances, below more dangerous Schedule I and II drugs such as heroin, marijuana, morphine and cocaine. In addition to steroids, Schedule III substances include codeine and some barbiturates – drugs that have accepted medical uses as well as potential for abuse. Possession or sale of steroids without a doctor's prescription became a federal offense punishable by up to one year in prison and a minimum $1,000 fine.

Despite the tougher law, steroid use among teens has increased.

More than 270,000 U.S. students in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades have used steroids, according to last year's "Monitoring the Future" survey by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. The annual survey found that use among 12th-graders was 62 percent higher last year than in 1991 and 33 percent higher among 10th-graders. It was about the same among eighth-graders.

Surveys and studies show that steroid use is highest among senior boys and athletes.

At many schools, a lack of data, combined with the secrecy surrounding steroid use, makes it difficult to determine the extent or even the existence of doping. Two schools with dominant football programs – Southlake Carroll High and Highland Park High – don't test for steroids and don't participate in the Texas A&M survey. The schools say they have conducted their own surveys that show levels of steroid use below the state and national rates.

Experts and surveys suggest that steroid use is going on at some level at virtually every high school.

Although thousands of Texas high school athletes are risking their health and cheating by using performance-enhancing drugs, area school administrators and coaches interviewed by The News point to the Texas A&M survey as proof that steroid use isn't a significant problem, especially when compared with much higher rates of alcohol and marijuana use. In the 2004 University of Michigan survey, 76.8 percent of 12th-graders said they had used alcohol and 45.7 percent said they had used marijuana, compared with 3.4 percent who said they had taken steroids.

"I'm telling you, I've never seen [steroid use], and I've never suspected it," said Mike Hughes, head football coach at Plano West Senior High School, where five former students interviewed by The News described widespread steroid use. "I'm more concerned about other things – alcohol, marijuana and those things."

Federal, state and local authorities also view steroids as a much less serious teen problem – and thus a lower priority – than alcohol abuse and the use of illicit drugs.

"Cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines are what we see a lot of," said Plano Police Chief Gregory Rushin. "That's what's killing our kids. We just don't see that many steroids cases."

High school steroid users make similar distinctions between illegal drugs that enhance their athletic performance and appearance and alcohol or street drugs.

"We didn't think it was a drug," said Callahan Kuhns, a 2004 Plano West graduate, speaking for the first time about his use of steroids in high school. "You don't put it in the same category as cocaine or something like that."

In Colleyville, a high school user told The News that steroids shouldn't be viewed "as a bad-kid drug." Emily Parker, a former Plano West student, described her steroid-using circle of male friends as "the good kids."

"Remember, kids are not breaking into people's houses to get their steroids," said Dr. Yesalis of Penn State. "They're not walking around with dilated pupils looking like a parent's worst nightmare. A lot of kids doing this are captain of the high school football team."

"In my 58 years, other than pedophilia,

I've never witnessed a behavior as secretive as this."

— Charles Yesalis, Penn-State University researcher

Taboo topic

Although steroids don't produce the overdose deaths of cocaine and heroin, they share the same culture of secrecy and denial.

Suspect athletes "would say they were on supplements, but they would never come out and say they were on steroids," said Patrick Anderson, a 2004 Plano Senior High graduate who was a hurdler on the track team. Only one student he knew admitted using steroids, despite "common knowledge" of steroid use at local schools, he said.

Even if they suspect it, coaches are reluctant to press the issue.

Most area coaches interviewed by The News said they don't believe steroid use is a problem. Several said they had never even suspected a player of using steroids, although they insisted they would know one if they saw one. Some conceded that the lack of testing programs and legal concerns made them hesitant to confront an athlete or confide in a parent.

Larry McBroom, who has coached football for 25 years in Texas and Oklahoma, said lawsuit fears make it more difficult these days for coaches to voice suspicions.

"I mean, you just don't do it – without hard, hard facts, you certainly can't do it," said Mr. McBroom, now head football coach at Mount Pleasant High School in East Texas. "That's the result of our legal system with rights and privacy and things of that nature."

Coaches also think twice about accusing a key player of steroid use because of the extraordinary pressure to win.

Faced with similar parental pressures – as well as the potential rewards of college scholarships and professional sports contracts – some teenagers turn to steroids.

"If you don't give your kid a moral foundation from which to make important life decisions and you continue to deliver ambivalent messages, if your message is win at all costs, then I think drug use is rational," Dr. Yesalis said.

Mr. Pyle, the Weatherford businessman, said the pressure to use steroids is greater than it was when he was in high school in the '70s. He has discussed the issue of high school steroid use with his college-age children, his nephew and their friends.

"It's not just athletes that do that now," he said. "It's everyday Joes that want to impress the girls, and that magic bottle is going to give them that. There's so much pressure on them to do it. There's pressure to buy the right clothes, to have the right hairdo, to look a certain way. [Teenagers] have lost their perspective, and some parents and coaches have."

Some coaches and experts say high school steroid testing is the best solution. It deters some students from using and catches some who are already doping. And it gives coaches the legal cover they need to pursue their suspicions.

Legislation that would make steroid testing mandatory in high schools is either pending or being discussed in several states, including Florida, California and Oklahoma. A handful of school districts in Texas and other states already test for steroids – although The News' investigation found that some schools claim that they test for steroids but don't actually do it.

In many school districts, coaches and administrators say the cost – from $100 to $175 per steroid test – is too high to make screening a priority. Others insist a problem doesn't exist.

Don Hooton has debated these points with Plano school administrators and coaches for the last year and a half. Mr. Hooton became convinced that steroids were overlooked in high schools after his 17-year-old son, Taylor, committed suicide in July 2003 – a victim of what Mr. Hooton believes was steroid-related depression. After police found steroids in Taylor's bedroom, the teen's friends revealed to Mr. Hooton and his wife that the drugs were widely used in their popular circle at Plano West.

In the months since, Mr.Hooton has devoted much of his time and energy to raising awareness of youth steroid abuse. He has conducted seminars at high schools, counseled parents and testified before Congress. And he has listened with dismay and anger as Plano school officials have assured him that steroid use isn't a serious problem in their schools.

"The reaction from the beginning has been to deny that there is a problem with steroids in Plano," Mr. Hooton said. "I don't understand it. We've got kids' lives and health at stake. Until we admit there is a problem and deal with it, this is only going to get worse."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Popular Contributors

    Nobody has received reputation this week.

  • Create New...