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Published: Saturday, 3/1/2008

Ohio must join effort to keep steroid use from teen athletes

BY BILL SANFORD

SPRING training is now under way for the 2008 major league baseball season. The big story of baseball this year is Roger Clemens and his recent appearance before a congressional committee to refute accusations that he had used steroids and human growth hormone as was told in the Mitchell report.

Everyone else mentioned in this report has admitted or not denied their use of steroids or HGH.

From all I have heard about this, I'm sure Clemens has used both steroids and HGH.

He has convinced himself he hasn't and will try and sway anyone he can to share that position.

Others like Olympian Marion Jones denied using steroids for years but finally admitted that she had lied and in fact had used steroids. Because of this admission, she has lost her Olympic medals.

Steroids are everywhere in sports. Professional sports (even golf), NCAA and the Olympics all test for steroids.

Baseball is in the mess they are today because they were slow to acknowledge there was a problem and did not mandate testing quick enough.

So where do you think we don't test for steroids? High schools.

Do you think high school athletes don't use steroids?

Don't be nave. Kids (and their parents) are looking for an edge to get bigger, stronger, and faster to win or get a college scholarship.

Like other drugs, steroids are easy to attain. The Internet has helped move drug deals from darkened alleys to any home with a computer and a credit card. We need a steroid testing program for high school athletes in Ohio. Four states now have a testing program (New Jersey, Florida, Texas, and Illinois).

After COMPASS sponsored a program on steroid use in 2007, I petitioned the Ohio High School Athletic Association to look into a steroid testing plan.

I was told it was not something their member schools were interested in at this time.

Cost is a concern. The steroid test can run from $150 to $175 per person. If you put in place a program to test 3 percent of the high school athletes in Ohio (approximately 325,000), you are looking at a $1.7 million program. If you only did 1 percent, the cost would be about $570,000.

Testing for steroids has proven to be a deterrent to use. For a teenager, using any drug (steroids included) is most damaging as the teen is still developing physically and the drugs can have serious psychological side effects as well.

David Hooton quit his job with Hewlett-Packard after his son committed suicide in 2003 due to depression caused by steroid withdrawal. His efforts got testing started in Texas and he now plans to travel to other states to lobby for steroid testing.

His son, Taylor, was a promising high school baseball prospect who purchased and used steroids without his parents' knowledge.

"All the education in the world is great, but a meaningful testing program is essential. Testing will give kids a reason to say no," Mr. Hooton said.

High school athletes look to the pros as role models. That picture is very cloudy at this time. We need to do all we can to make sure our young athletes are safe. We need to get this issue on the front burner of the OHSAA.

I would feel much better if there was a statewide committee meeting now trying to find a way to secure the funding to get a testing program in place.

Unfortunately, Ohio has chosen to sit on the sidelines as state after state institutes steroid testing programs.

By the time Ohio does decide to implement a program, how many of our young people will be adversely affected? To me, one teen using steroids is too many.

Bill Sanford is president and CEO of COMPASS Corporation for Recovery Services in Toledo.



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