Dangers of steroids real

Dangers of steroids real

William C. Kashatus
Houston Chronicle
June 17, 2013

On July 15, 2003, Taylor Hooton, a 6′ 1″, 205-pound pitcher at Plano West High School north of Dallas fashioned a noose of leather belts and hung himself from his bedroom door. When the room was inspected by the police, vials of steroids, along with syringes and needles, were found. An autopsy by the county medical examiner confirmed the presence of metabolized anabolic steroids in the pitcher’s system.

After the suicide, one of Taylor’s teammates confirmed that he’d begun his steroid use in order to “get bigger” and “to improve his performance on the mound.” Instead, Taylor, a gifted, popular student with a bright future, spiraled into a serious depression. The results proved fatal.

Hooton’s example is extreme. But the use of appearance- and performance-enhancing drugs by teens is even more troubling than the use of PEDs by elite athletes in professional baseball, football and track and field. What’s worse, adolescent steroid use is growing.

The Taylor Hooton Foundation, a non-profit organization underwritten by Major League Baseball, was established by the late pitcher’s family to honor his memory. The foundation is hosting an outreach program at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday to educate students, parents and coaches about the signs and dangers of steroid use.

Adolescents use steroids for the very same reasons the pros do. PEDs build muscle mass, augment quickness and improve recovery time from injury. These assets give the athlete a competitive edge in terms of power, speed and endurance. Interestingly, the fastest-growing group of steroid users is female non-athletes intent on improving their physical appearance.

At the same time, PEDs taken in mega-doses have been linked to tendon and ligament tears, kidney and liver damage, impotence, heart disease and cancer.

Unlike pro athletes, teenagers are more susceptible to the physiological and psychological effects of steroids because of the natural hormonal imbalance. The effects include irritability, rage, depression and suicidal tendencies. The psychiatric symptoms associated with steroid withdrawal persist for a year or more after the abuser stops using.

While elite athletes know the side effects of steroid use and can afford to pay the exorbitant cost for the unadulterated product, teens are clueless and purchase less expensive substances that may be contaminated and, hence, even more dangerous. But they are still willing to take the risk in order to improve their athletic performance and self-confidence and attract the opposite sex.

There is a desperate need for greater awareness of the dangers and symptoms of steroid use among adults. Unfortunately, most parents cannot distinguish between those symptoms and the extreme mood swings, severe acne and physical maturation associated with adolescence. Nor does testing for hallucinogenic drugs expose steroid use, making it more difficult for concerned parents to seek help.

Sadly, there are some parents – and coaches – who purposely choose to look the other way. They’ve been deluded by the “win-at-all costs” attitude that has worked its way down from the pros to amateur sports. It’s an attitude embraced by PED-using role models like Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds; by parents who push their kids in the hope of obtaining a college athletic scholarship; and by coaches who encourage their players to get bigger in order to build a championship program.

Regardless of one’s position, there is no denying the fact that steroids are illegal. Their sale and use without a physician’s prescription is a felony. Scientists, doctors and lawmakers long ago decided that steroids are so dangerous that they must be subject to medical and legal control. None of this, however, has stopped adolescents from abusing the drug.

It’s time for parents, coaches and the professional athletes who, whether they like it or not, are role models for our kids, to take greater responsibility on this issue. If we fail, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.