Steroids - A Problem in high school sports?
Posted Tuesday, April 03, 2012 by J. Sciucco
Teens' big worry: For high school athletes, steroids still the rage
By Wayne Coffey / DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Steve is not anybody you know. He isn't assaulting home run records, winning Olympic gold medals or making millions, and he sure isn't mentioned in the 409 pages of George Mitchell's report. He's just a high school kid from New Jersey who wanted to get big and strong for football and wrestling, and wanted to do it fast. He had a circle of friends who had started taking anabolic steroids.
He joined in. And faster than you can spell j-u-i-c-e, Steve (not his real name) began taking an assortment of steroids at age 15, mainly Dianabol and Winstrol, getting them the way most kids do these days: over the Internet, the same way another user, Joe P., used to get his. "It was a frigging piece of cake. I had the ---- delivered right to my parents' house," says Joe, who has since stopped taking steroids and relocated to Florida from the northeast.
Stealing money from his parents to make his purchases, Steve injected the juice, swallowed the pills, his dosage amounting to more than 50 times the normal level of testosterone. He got the results he wanted - slabs of fresh muscle and almost 60 pounds of weight gain - and a host of problems he didn't, after his parents found a cache of syringes, steroid bottles, diuretics, the complete steroid user's get-big kit, inside his gym bag. Even as Steve sees a physician to treat the side-effects that have overtaken his life (profound depression, sleeplessness and difficulties in school), the national profile of anabolic steroids is rising like a Roger Clemens (chemically enhanced) fastball.
It has been spurred by the landmark findings of the Mitchell Report, and by growing concern that cheating by the nation's erstwhile sporting heroes is fueling a rise in teenage use of performance-enhancing drugs, notwithstanding the disgrace these athletes are typically subjected to. "My personal feeling is that there is more use at a younger age, and I don't think it's necessarily just our athletes," says Dr. Vincent Disabella, who has a sports-medicine practice in Delaware and was one of dozens of people - physicians and trainers, athletic directors and coaches, steroid users past and present - interviewed by the Daily News in recent weeks about teenage use of performance-enhancing drugs.
"We're a very vain society, and we're seeing a lot of kids doing anabolic steroids for vanity reasons." Sal Marinello is a personal trainer and strength coach, and the assistant head football coach at Chatham (N.J.) High School. "There's no question that kids are using it," Marinello says. "It's absolutely more available than ever before. You used to have to go hang out in a gym to get it. Now you go on Google and in two minutes you have 100 places to get it."
Lest anyone doubt that steroid traffickers are increasingly targeting kids, consider Operation Phony Pharm, a sting presided over by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office in Connecticut this fall that resulted in four guilty pleas in connection with the distribution of steroids through Myspace.com. One of the men who pleaded guilty, Matthew Peltz, had 40,000 units of steroids to be distributed - all of it a homemade brew prepared with raw steroid powder from China, according to his plea agreement. John Jenks, a former cop and longtime steroid user who now works as a drug and alcohol counselor in Ojai, Calif., estimates that "10 to 15% of competitive teenage athletes are using anabolic steroids." Jenks finds the number troubling, and the reasons behind it even more so. "To me, the steroids aren't the issue as much as the mentality and the mindset that causes people to take them," Jenks says. "In theory, sportsmanship is held in high regard, but in reality, winning at all costs has become more important than character, integrity and self-esteem."
* * * Getting a reliable read on the number of teenage users of performance-enhancing drugs is about as easy as counting fish in the ocean. Just last week, the University of Michigan's respected Monitoring the Future Study reported a substantial decline in teenage steroid use in the previous 12 months; the study found that 2.3% of 12th-grade males surveyed had used anabolic steroids in the previous year. Dr. Craig Kimmel, whose Primary Care Sports Medicine practice is based in Moorestown, N.J., reports a similar finding in his own practice; in a typical year he'll see 20 to 25 students who want to get off of steroids.
This year the number is down to 8. On the other hand, the most recent Center for Disease Control's Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2005) showed that 4.8% of 12th-grade males had taken illegal steroids one or more times in their life. While such discrepancies are difficult to explain, most experts agree on one point: self-reporting surveys are inevitably going to grossly understate the problem. There are an estimated 14 million high school students in the country. If even 5% of them have taken illegal anabolic steroids, it puts the number of teenage users at 700,000. "I don't believe the low (Monitoring the Future) numbers at all," says Don Hooton, who has dedicated his life to fighting steroid abuse since his son, Taylor, committed suicide as he was coming off steroids. "Do you really want me to believe that kids are going to check the 'yes' box in a questionnaire? Lord have mercy."