W hen you hear about a steroid problem on the professional level, one of the first concerns is how long will it take for this problem to trickle down to high school sports. Athletes like to emulate other athletes, and some people figure it is only a matter of time before prep athletes are tempted to take a short cut to getting stronger, quicker and buffer.
Notice, we didn’t say “to get physically fit” in the sentence above.
Steroids don’t make you physically fit. Quite the contrary. In fact, those who use steroids are cheaters. They cheat their opponents. They cheat their teammates. They cheat their families and friends as well as those who follow their teams. And, worst of all, they cheat themselves.
Steroid use is very different than other drug abuse. Drugs such as marijuana are often used in social settings. Users enjoy the company of others and often freely talk about their drug use, almost braggadocio. Those who use steroids are much more private. They hide the steroid use from others, not wanting to let on that they really don’t have what it takes to become more physically fit.
Because of that, it’s harder to tell how many athletes use steroids. One can only suspect a person is a steroid user.
We believe the way to keep steroids from becoming a problem is to better educate students, coaches and administrators about the effects steroids can have on the human body. For males, that can mean testicular cancer, shrunken testicles, reduced sperm count and impotence. For females — yes, girls also use steroids — it can result in breast reduction, baldness, acne and yellowing of the skin and eyes. That should scare any high-schooler. And we haven’t even touched on other side effects such as brain cancer, depression and potentially homicidal behavior.
Knowing these harmful effects, some people may advocate mandatory testing of high school athletes for steroids. However, we strongly disagree with such testing. Testing would be a nightmare that wouldn’t provide deterrence.
Pharmacists, law-enforcement officers and others say information is already available on the Internet on how to beat steroid testing. Drugs are also constantly changing, thus new tests would constantly need to be developed. It would be expensive and cost prohibitive for schools that already are facing funding problems.
That’s why education seems to be the best method, followed by a tough stance from schools should an athlete be found guilty of using steroids.
Beyond steroids, we know that many athletes are using food supplements that are readily available. Medical professionals have warned us that the long-term effects of some of these products may be unknown, even though they’re perfectly legal right now. It only makes sense for parents and athletes to check with their family physicians before taking food supplements.
Competition is meant to be a positive, fun learning experience. It doesn’t need to have deadly consequences.