Steroids: The Risk of Being a Jock

Steroid use has been getting extensive media attention recently with numerous baseball figures including Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez testing positive or confessing to having used performance enhancing drugs (PED). But there is another type of steroid use that is proliferating among young men and boys as young as twelve that has many concerned.

These guys are using ‘roids to excel at competitive sports and also to achieve that beautifully toned, bulked-up, superhero-like body so prominent in print ads, like Beckham’s Armani spread.

Ken Adams*, 22, a self-confessed former jock, says, “Young athletes also idolize professionals, and since you can’t turn on the TV without hearing about another athlete testing positive for PED, they assume they are safe and that it’s not a big deal.”

Ken says that being an athlete in high school steroids “were around and more or less readily available if needed.” Athletes turned to them because they “are a quick fix and the results you get from them are far superior to those gained from strictly working hard. The problem with that is these guys are not using them properly nor are they looking into the side effects of the drugs.”

Ken is well aware of what steroids can do to someone. In his junior year, a wrestling teammate, who was suspected of taking steroids and Ken describes as “the funniest and happiest guy you’ll ever meet,” committed suicide. Ken says there’s a good possibility that the suicide was linked to his ‘roid use.

Doctors have long associated PED use to suicide. The issue hit the national stage in 2007, when pro-wrestler Chris Benoit, nicknamed “The Canadian Cripper,” strangled his wife, suffocated his 7-year-old son and placed a Bible next to their bodies before hanging himself with the pulley of a weight machine. Investigators found prescription anabolic steroids in the house and it was later revealed that the drugs likely played a part in Benoit becoming unhinged.

The numerous side effects of steroids include kidney and liver damage, paranoia, depression and explosive outbursts known as "roid rage."

“I knew a lot of people in high school that took steroids and saw their personalities change firsthand,” says Ken. Despite this, Ken confesses that he would understand if a friend used steroids to get ahead in sports.

“In Division I, you’re at a disadvantage if you don’t do ‘roids. The truth is if my friend was a good athlete and wanted to be better to get a scholarship or something, I would tell him to do it.”

Ken blames it on the pressure that is put on young male athletes to win. “A lot of people don’t realize that they’re just kids. People critique them as if they were professionals and don’t take into consideration that half of these guys don’t even have a driver’s license.”

Researchers say steroid use has boomed over the last ten years as young men and boys become more image-conscious, thanks in part to Hollywood, and the drug has become more easily available. The internet has changed the market for all drugs and steroids are no exception.

Do Something wanted to test this claim so we Google searched for anabolic steroid purchase and it returned an astounding 1,850,000 hits. Sadly, many of the sites are offshore and very difficult for the government to control.

So what can be done about the growing problem? There is talk about more stringent regulations. President Obama has started to revamp the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Just recently he granted them more control over tobacco industries and there's rumor that dietary supplements will soon follow. But what good will those do if teens can just as easily go online and order them from a supplier halfway across the globe?

Ken says more action has to be taken to prevent steroid use, suggesting that testing may even be necessary although it may not be feasible due to the expense.

“It’s talked about in Phys. Ed. And Health classes but it seems nobody wants to take action on preventing use. It’s one thing to say, ‘Steroids are bad, don’t do them.’ It’s another to say, ‘We’re going to test you for ‘roids.’”

A year long project conducted by the Student Advisory Council of the state of Illinois revealed that teens readily admit that they want and need proper education on decision-making in general, covering sex education, stress, and the effects of alcohol, illegal drugs and steroids, dieting and weight loss. Maybe it’s time we start listening.

* Name has been changed to protect the individual's identity.