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Steroid Use: Hitting Closer to Home

Olympic scandals spotlight performance-enhancing drugs as number of kids using them grows.

A Question of Values

Doping raises another troubling question. If doping is cheating (and every expert who spoke with WebMD says it is) why is it so widespread? Don't our role models in sports know it's wrong? Don't we know it's wrong?

"A lot of us try to be more than we really are," Roberts says. "If kids grow up with having to be the best, they start looking for things that make them the best. And for a lot of kids, without drugs they will never be close to the best. Society has made expectations that everybody can be the best. But they can't."

Roberts and Khadem are very optimistic that full acceptance of the World Anti-Doping Code and more stringent testing will curb doping in professional and elite sports. They are hopeful that the current round of scandals has angered the public -- and scared sports officials -- so much that both will insist on this.

Yesalis remains skeptical about getting drugs out of elite sports in the near future. But he joins Roberts and Khadem in insisting that the long-term solution is to change the messages we are giving young people.

The only workable answer is parents doing the right thing. We have to raise kids with a strong moral foundation so they can make moral judgments whether to use performance enhancing drugs," Yesalis says. We need to infuse these values in a strong way. And the men and women who coach need to state, with as much intensity as in their pregame talks, that using these drugs gives only false glory and hollow victory. "

Roberts points out that positive examples speak louder than dire warnings.

"If we can get folks to say we have to stop doping at the elite level, it will trickle back down," he says. "When you look at younger kids' doping, it is monkey see/monkey do. People pattern themselves after actions more than cautions. They see pro athletes and world-class athletes using drugs and advancing, and say, 'If it is good enough for them, it is good enough for me.'"

The wrong thing to say, Roberts notes, is that performance-enhancing drugs don't work. They do -- but that's not the whole picture.

"Early on in our history, we said, 'These drugs don't work so don't use them.' That cost us a lot of credibility," he says. "Now we stress the health and ethical reasons they shouldn't be used. We promote good nutrition, good training, and healthy lifestyle. We really look down on the illegal or unethical use of drugs to enhance performance. It is just cheating."

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Reviewed on August 04, 2004

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