Juvenile Anabolic Steroid Abuse

OCTOBER 01, 2006
Cmdr John Burke

Rumors and accusations of anabolic steroid abuse among Olympic and professional athletes seem to be a never-ending phenomenon in our world. The most recent media focus has been on professional baseball and some of its home run hitters, as grand juries investigate drug usage, perjury, and other conspiracies related to performance-enhancing substances.

As all of you know, anabolic steroids have legitimate use in humans, and veterinarians have long used the drugs to treat horses. This has sometimes made horse-racing tracks a viable source of steroids for illegal human consumption. One case several years ago involved a man in his sixties who traveled around the Midwest horse tracks obtaining and selling anabolic steroids and other drugs to eager consumers.

A clerk at a local retail office store assisted a young man in sending a facsimile to Greece and noticed it was an order for anabolic steroids. Her information several years ago helped us in shutting down a fairly large distribution of anabolic steroids that involved the owners of a gym and a law enforcement officer. Virtually all of the individuals who came to pick up their drugs were armed with handguns—not a good thing in any event for them to be carrying a gun, especially considering the uncontrollable rage steroid usage can produce.

Most people do not realize that these drugs have been a part of cattle shows and are used to provide muscle mass on steers to enhance them in front of the judges—thanks to the almighty dollar. Major beef shows in the United States can yield big paydays for those with the winning steer entries, and this is why testing was implemented many years ago for cattle making it to the top spots in the competition. Ohio passed a law making it a felony to administer these drugs to bovine.

As sports become even more important to thousands of American families, should it surprise us that steroids and other enhancing drugs would be used by our youth? I read an article, which cited the most recent Monitoring the Future survey, which indicated that 1.3% of eighth graders, 2.3% of 10th graders, and 3.3% of 12th graders had used steroids in the past year.

These are incredible numbers, in my opinion, and make me realize that more education and more law enforcement attention need to be focused on this problem. News accounts will sometimes reveal that coaches and parents are the abetting culprits in locating and encouraging anabolic steroid usage. This usage not only can ultimately seriously damage growing bodies, but can make youths more susceptible to future drug abuse problems, as their mentors cheer them on to short-term victories on the playing field.

I certainly do not condone the illegal use of drugs for anyone, but adults make decisions that they have to live or die with—the use of anabolic steroids being only one of them. When adults encourage and even provide steroids to teenagers, however, in hopes that their children will obtain athletic victories that they never experienced, or scholarships to dad's alma mater, or the false hope of making millions as a professional athlete, it is one of the lowest of deeds.

Nipping it in the bud is essential, with education at the top of the list for coaches, children, parents, and certain alumni. At the same time, more focused law enforcement, with stiff criminal penalties, should be brought against those who are ultimately caught in distributing these steroids to our nation's children.

As long as sports stars are considered heroes by a large segment of our population, and winning is everything, these kinds of drugs will be a threat to our high school and college athletes.

When there is suspicion or actual evidence, parents, coaches, or athletes need to step up and report it to law enforcement. Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and many other professional athletes made their accomplishments steroid-free—let's send that important message to our youth.

John Burke, commander of the Warren County, Ohio, drug task force and retired commander of the Cincinnati Police Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad, is a 38-year veteran of law enforcement. Cmdr Burke also is the current president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. For information, he can be reached by e-mail at burke@choice.net, via the Web site www.rxdiversion.com, or by phone at 513-336-0070.