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Damage control vs the wild pitch on steroids.

Coaches who refuse to worry about the menace of performance-enhancing drugs had better wake up in a hurry. What are they going to tell their kids when the kids begin questioning them about all the wonderful things that are supposed to happen to people who feed on anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) and human-growth hormones (HGH)?

That is the message that a former ballplayer named Jose Canseco is trying to sell to our current ballplayers. It is all laid out unprettifully in his book on baseball and steroids called Juiced.

He claims he is "tired of hearing such short sighted crap from people who have no idea what they're talking about. Steroids are here to stay ... Steroids are the future ... And, believe it or not, that's good news ... In no way, shape, or form, do I endorse the use of steroids without proper medical advice and thorough expert supervision ... I'm especially critical of anyone who starts playing around with steroids too early, when they are barely old enough to shave and not even full grown yet."


This is a sweet and tender thought, coming as it does from a person who confesses that he knows more about steroids and what they can do for the human body than other layman in the world.

He believes that every steroid out there can be used safely and beneficially.

"Some steroids you cycle off and on, depending on the dose ... steroids that have low toxicity levels can be taken continuously by most healthy people.

"Growth hormone? You can use that all year round. Same thing with your Equipoise, your Winstrols, your Decas--taken properly, those are fine all year round.

"If I were young and impressionable, I'd believe that 'proper medical advice and thorough expert supervision' were minor formalities and could be found in an old high school pal turned gym rat."

Come to think of it, that is just the kind of person he sought. A guy "who knew a lot about steroids and had experimented with them." (Canseco, pg. 11).

From whence cometh all this wisdom? Canseco played baseball in high school. After graduating in 1982, he was drafted in the 15th round by the Oakland A's. He then played one year of baseball with three of the A's minor league affiliates: Idaho Falls, Medford, OR, and Modesto, CA.

According to Canseco, each of those seasons was unremarkable. The 1994 season ended with the death of his mother.

On her deathbed, Jose promised her that he would become the best athlete in the world, no matter what the cost. After he finished the season, he began strength training with his newfound "friend"--steroids (pg. 49). He increased his weight from 180 to 205 pounds.

The rest of his career speaks for itself. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 1986, American League MVP in 1988, a World Series championship, and hit a total of 462 home runs. And "... steroids were the key to it all" (Canseco, pg. 51).

Looking at this abbreviated time-line and other statements in his book, you discover a lot of gaps that the author fills with all kinds of nonsense about his favorite goodies.

Question: What kind of strength training did Jose do during high school? Answer: none.

For three seasons in the minors, he was admittedly lackluster about any supplemental training to improve his overall strength. It wasn't until 1984, at age 20, that he started his first serious strength training program and began using steroids.

He claims to have grown from 5-11 and 180 pounds in 1984 to 6-4 and 250 pounds at his peak. The truth is that Jose could have improved his strength and power with a properly designed strength training and nutrition program without steroids.

Research has shown that AAS and GH are effective in increasing muscle mass and strength--but why risk the side effects, especially before achieving your natural potential?

Canseco claims to have run the 40-yard dash in 3.9 seconds (Canseco, pg. 231). If that were true, then he could have been a multi-gold medalist in the sprints.

"The smart ones," he says, "will consider using low doses of steroids all year round." Which is as low as he gets.

Most coaches will be able to laugh this off, but your young and impressionable athletes will need some guidance from you. Ken Mannie, Scholastic Coach & AD's strength and conditioning guru, recommends a five-point approach to the problem of steroid use:

1. Stay ahead of the testing tit-for-tat game to keep your technology up to snuff with the clandestine labs that are hard at work hood-winking the system.

2. Incorporate the very best testing procedures at the collegiate, professional, and international levels on a year-round, random and unannounced basis.

3. Institute strict penalties for athletes who test positive for anabolic drugs.

4. Encourage the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take more of a pro-active role in regulating the OTC supplement industry, especially with the advent of pro-steroids and precursor steroids.

5. Intensify and update the educational programs at the junior high, senior high, and collegiate levels on a yearly basis.

What kind of educational program do you have in place at your institution? When your young athletes approach you for your perspective on Canseco's message, what is your response going to be? Are you ready to communicate with parents about the steps you are taking to prevent steroid use on your teams?

Feel free to use this article as one set of counterpoints, but supplement it with additional information.

If your school or organization does not already have a policy regarding steroid use, the National Strength and Conditioning Association offers an action plan for combating anabolic steroid use and policy development, and can be found at their home page:

Another web site that provides useful steroid information and prevention plans is the Iowa Substance Abuse Information Center Online located at

About 14 years ago I read the book False Glory by Steve Courson, an offensive tackle for the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. After years of steroid use he developed dilated cardiomyopathy and was put on a waiting list for a heart transplant.

"I regret few things in my life," Courson says, "but I do regret selling myself out to the system by using drugs to compete. I regret being so overwhelmed by the game that I became a creature of it."

Coaches, it is your responsibility to help your athletes keep their competition in perspective. Are you doing a good job?

By John Amtmann, Ed. D., Professor/Department Head, Applied Health Science Montana Tech of U. Montana, Butte, MT
COPYRIGHT 2005 Scholastic, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:STRENGTH & CONDITIONING; Juiced
Author:Amtmann, John
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2005
Previous Article:A man for all seasons: Dave Houle of Mountain View High School in Orem, UT, has built a winning legacy based on a love for coaching and his players.
Next Article:"Tough love is in effect here!" Perspectives on coaching and leadership.

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