Warren Moon, the late coach Bill Walsh, Ken Dorsey and I testified before the California Senate and Assembly several years back supporting a bill by State Senator Jackie Speier to ban steroids and dangerous supplements from high school students and provide education on the subject.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the ban, but vetoed the educational component. Since the Governor profited from his ownership of magazines which advertised such substances, we were not surprised. The danger that these compounds pose requires constant vigilance.
Two groups of high school are at special risk: 1. Athletes are often told by coaches that they need to be bigger, stronger and faster without specifying the way to achieve these goals. Athletes are hyper-competitive and may seek an edge by whatever means necessary. 2. Body Builders. There is a group of young males who work to achieve a muscular and chiseled look. They compete with each other to see who can develop the most dramatic upper body musculature. They may be sublimating the stresses that adolescent hormones create.
The use of anabolic steroids to achieve muscle growth comes at a high cost. In the 80s I had a number of clients, mostly offensive and defensive lineman who were on cycles of steroids. They were easy to identify. They often had pimples, receding hairlines and a "doughy" look to their upper bodies. The behavioral changes were dramatic. They would swing from hyperagressive "roid rage" in which they were agressive, hostile and dramatic to a very emotional state.
When a player came off of a cycle, heavy depression would occur. We had one client kill himself. The deaths of Raider defensive linemen Lyle Alzado and John Matuzak from cancer that many felt was steroid induced sent a ripple of fear through the NFL. This is why there was consensus among the league, teams, players and agents that a total ban was necessitated.
Unfortunately Major League Baseball engaged in collective denial, with the steroid-fueled home run record chase bringing popularity back to the sport after a disastrous strike. Some of the damage that occurs by artificially speeding up the body will take many years to manifest.
There are a wide variety of non-steroid supplements available that purport to creative the same results. They are not identified as "drugs" under the definition of the Food and Drug Administrations. The rigorous testing that accompanies a new drug, and the warning as to side effects never occurs. The purity and potency of the supplements is not tested or verified.
Taking supplements to achieve muscle growth makes a test tube out of the body. Incredible amounts of speed-type substances are involved, promoting agression. There is no clear way to evaluate the actual effects, both short and long term on the body. Young people tend to be in denial about the long-term health risks. If they can achieve the desired results, any standard of care is avoided.
The first line of defense for the high school community is the coaching staffs and trainers. These figures hold the power to start or sit a player in their hands. They need to be emphatic that the weight room and proper nutrition and not the pharmacy is the way to achieve physical prowess.
Parents need to be aware of the dangers and intervene if abuse is suspected. Parents have an even stronger role to play when it comes to adolescent body builders. When their child very rapidly acquires a body like the Incredible Hulk, warning signals need to go off.
Neither life threatening steroids or unregulated supplements are necessary to produce physical strength or speed. Training and weight techniques have become incredibly sophisticated. I would watch NFL draftees training with our trainer for the scouting combine achieve dramatic results in a short period of time without the use of these substances.
These are the most logical circumstances for testing. It is not a matter of not trusting young athletes, but we owe them a level of supervision when life threatening and altering dangers lurk.
LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports or blog.steinbergsports.com.Copyright © 2015, CT Now