July 13, 2004

The Abuse of Anabolic Steroids and Their Precursors by Adolescent and Amateur Athletes

John Doe
(hidden witness)
College Athlete
NCAA Division I Football Team

I would like to thank the Caucus On International Narcotics Control for giving me the opportunity to address you regarding an issue I believe has the potential to destroy the integrity of many sports.

I have spent the past 4 years as a ‘walk-on at the varsity level of a Division I program. Anyone watching college football has inevitably watched the school I played at least once during the fall season when they are broadcast on national television 2-3 games a year. I wish to not give any more information on the school as to protect both my identity and the schools integrity. My participation included practice during the regular season, year round conditioning, spring practice, and two-a-day practices in August prior to the season. I was on the team for four years, and it was a rewarding experience.

I would however like everyone listening to keep in mind that my stories reflect on other big time division I programs. I can tell you this because college football shares a common mentality around the nation, and that is you're either big or fast, maybe even both. A certain percentage of players will potentially sacrifice their college eligibility in order to gain an edge on their competition.

Growing up, I participated in a number of sports. In high school, I concentrated on football and track. During high school, I became aware of various substances that were touted to enhance muscle growth and, indirectly, athletic performance. These products ran the gamut from high protein dietary supplements to illegal anabolic steroids and were readily available.

The transition from a high school football team to a Division I school was obviously tremendous. The talent level, experience level, and physical presence of the players seems to increased exponentially. When first arriving at a program like this, the temptation to use steroids is great because of the surrounding players who quite obviously have used drugs to gain physical strength. Even more alluring is the prospect of earning a spot on the offense, defense or special teams which would become much easier to achieve by using steroids and gaining 20-30lbs of muscle.

When I moved up to a Division I program, the level of ability and the pressure to excel increased exponentially. Even though the use of steroids was discouraged in my program, there were individuals on the team who used them and appeared to gain some benefit from them.

Part of the allure of steroids is that they will give you a competitive edge. During my college athletic career, I was able to gain about thirty pounds, substantially improve my strength, and cut my time in the forty-yard run to 4.5 seconds. I did this without the use of steroids. After I ran the 4.5 forty, my strength coach told me that I now needed to get bigger and stronger. How much bigger, stronger and faster would I have been had I taken steroids? The temptation was great. The use of steroids probably would have resulted in my moving up the depth chart and thus getting more playing time and possibly receiving an athletic scholarship.

Without careful observation it became evident that many players on my football team were using steroids at some time during their career. This is because my current friend and roommate lived with a player that supplied 7-8 other players on the team with these steroids. Many of these players played significant time in games and most were starters on either offense or defense. There could easily be other players using steroids that I was not aware of during my career and in hindsight it becomes very probable that several other people on the team used steroids without many people knowing. You may be asking yourself how these players get around the NCAA random drug testing policy. This policy is rather weak however, and fairly predictable with the drug tests falling in roughly the same window of time each year. The NCAA claims to be protecting the health and safety of college athletes but in my opinion has very little pull on the illegal use of drugs in college athletics.

Despite my love for the game of football, or maybe because of it, I was unwilling to make the Faustian bargain of using steroids or other illegal performance enhancing substances in order to play. No athlete should have to trade his integrity in order to gain a competitive edge. The victims of performance enhancing substances are not just the users, who face various long-term health consequences, but those who choose not to use them and lose the equal opportunity to compete. I hope my testimony today will be helpful to you in your efforts to eliminate the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs in sports.

Part of the reason I was able to stay away from the use of steroids is because of my prior knowledge to the damaging effects that all anabolic steroids have on the body. Another positive is being fortunate enough to be part of a program that strongly discourages the use of steroids, and a network of players that refuse to take any illegal substances even if it would be the difference maker in their college football career. It was not easy however to ignore the option of using drugs to gain an edge, especially when a coach encourages a player to gain weight in order to play or "do whatever it takes to get stronger and bigger."