By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
In Lieu Of The BALCO Case, Are High School Athletes Still Trying To Mimic The Pros?
SAN ANTONIO, TX. —It’s amazing how things become circular with time. On June 19, 2002 BASN published an editorial I wrote about what I perceived as rampant abuse of anabolic steroids. Just tonight ( July 21, 2004 ), CBS re-ran a 60 Minutes II episode about a white baseball player who killed himself in his prime. The young man was hooked on steroids and his parents watched with horror as their sweet, successful young man turn into a monster. Tyler Hooton was a white ball player from Plano , Texas but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t African American high school athletes trying to reach the American dream of athletic prowess the same way Hooton tried. While the Hooton story was a tragedy, what’s even more tragic is the thousands of others who are out there, many who live in African American homes, which may be going through the same problems and situations. You compound that with the recent news headlines about Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative’s legal woes and how athletes like Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and others are pulled into the web of deception, and you can see why I wanted to re-visit this story as often as possible. America we are losing our young athletes not to steroids but also to the influences of athletes who may be on steroids and as parents, family members and friends, we are losing the battle big time.
HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS IS BIG BUSINESS ON AND OFF THE FIELD It’s been 20 years or so since I competed at the high school level.
Back then I was a high school wrestler at a catholic high school in Cincinnati , Ohio . Was I a big buy on the team? Not quite. I had the luxury of wrestling in two or three weight classes. Back then my metabolism would allow me to do crazy stuff like that and I could eat whatever the hell I wanted. I read the muscle magazines and I bought a few dietary supplements when I had money but not like what these kids are buying now. Met-Rex wasn’t even in existence back then and the only company I knew about was Joe Weidner’s products. Yet high school wrestling wasn’t a big thing either in the Queen City . Football was king and everyone knew it. But even then, the work out regiments was tame in comparison to what goes on now.
That was 20 years ago and then some. In today’s world things are a little bit more different these days even at the volunteer ranks of amateur sports. When I was coaching the local Pop Warner team on San Antonio ‘s Eastside, I made it appoint to ask the parents to make sure their children were in shape for the season. Did I have seven through 12 year olds taking work out supplements? Of course not. I did my research and just mentally formulated some workout plans that helped keep these players in good condition for their age. If a child was overweight by a couple of pounds or so, I knew that a good, vigorous workout in practice would help him lose weight naturally. If the kid was too heavy, I didn’t ‘sweat’ him like I knew other coaches might have tried; I sent that kid up to the next division or over to the local YMCA who had a team that dealt with kids in that category. Along the way I told the kids I dealt with about the dangers of trying to emulate the professional athletes that they saw on television. I warned them that taking anything from a store like GNC just wasn’t in their best interest right now. Milk, cookies and all the other good stuff kids like was fine for them as long as they did it in a healthy manner.
But what do you tell the young men who have grown up from the Pop Warner ranks and are now in the beast of high school athletics? How do you tell these same young men that performance-enhancing drugs just isn’t worth dying for? How can you get the message across when you look what college and professional athletes are using these days? How can you blame a 17-year-old who wants to compete at the next level when is buddy is doing it right in front of him? You can’t. You simply can’t.
The only thing you can do is try to help both realize how deadly the situation is.
IT WOULD BE NICE IF PRO ATHLETES JUST CAME CLEAN If the American public is going to have any chance at beating the steroid epidemic, I look at the professional athlete for the answer.
While I know that Barry Bonds doesn’t have the guts to defy the baseball union and to actually help out the USADA in their fight, I think it would be downright philanthropic for him and others to do so.
The way I look at it is this: if Bonds is innocent of using performance enhancers, then subject yourself and your reputation to a test. Let the laws of chemistry, biology and other sciences uphold that innocence. I would extend that invitation to anyone in the professional world who wants to help in the cause. This fight needs to be fought on all fronts and professional athletes leading the charge of abstaining from performance enhancers. Talk about the ultimate weapon.
Maybe it isn’t fashionable but think about how great this would be. Can you picture a player of Emmitt Smith’s caliber actually saying something like, “I’ve never had to resort to workout enhancers to achieve my three Super bowl rings”? Or how about a player like Tracy McGrady saying that milk was his main source of vitamins and calcium supplements during off-season training. There could be all types of PSAs and media spots with various athletes in all categories telling these young athletes that dealing with performance enhancers is just bad business.
IN THE END IT IS GOING TO COME DOWN TO THE PLAYER’S WILL I know that somewhere in this country that no matter how much hype is thrown at these kids, the only way this epidemic will be defeated will be by going to each of them, one at a time. No professional athlete, no television special or no coach screaming at them will stop athletes who want to get an edge on the competition by going down the destructive path. The only way that is going to stop is when that athlete himself realizes what is at stake. For young athletes like Hooton it’s too late to play the ‘what if’ game but it isn’t too late for those who can be reached one at a time. I’m only hoping that this will happen sooner and not later. Hopefully cases like Hooton’s and the BALCO case will continue to show high school students that price is just too high to pay at a time when they should be enjoying their ‘immortality’.