It was only a matter of time before steroids became a problem among high school athletes, and Dr. Garrett J. Lynch, director of the Arthroscopy and Sports Injury Center, says 6 percent to 10 percent of highschool athletes use or have used anabolic steroids.
Lynch's figures are based on national studies conducted by various medical and drug-abuse organizations and from his own experiences giving talks at local high schools and health clubs.
But does that estimate include Anne Arundel high school athletes?
Whether it does or not, and no one is really sure, the fact that steroids could damage an athlete's health is enough to warrant discussion. And as a public service, Lynch is giving a 45-minute presentation to local high school students on steroids and their dangerous effects.
"Steroid use is a very serious problem among competitive power lifters and body builders. More alarming to me, however, is the useof steroids in high school athletes," said Lynch, who has offices inAnnapolis, Severna Park, Crofton and on Kent Island.
"Anabolic steroids are drugs, taken orally or by injection. They are made from either a natural or synthetic derivative of the male hormone testosterone. They are used by athletes to enhance muscular development and increase physical power. Anabolic steroids have muscle building and masculinizing properties."
Some of the negative effects of steroids for men are a decrease in sexual drive, testicle size and sperm count;possible increase in breast size and acne. The conditions are usually reversible.
Teen-age and adult women who use steroids may experience male-pattern baldness, an unusually deeper voice, facial hair and increased clitoris size. Medical studies have shown those effects are irreversible.
In addition, women may experience irregularities in their menstrual cycles, breast size decreases and acne. The good news is that those side effects are normally reversible.
What's really scary are the effects of continued use of steroids over periods of years. High blood pressure, an increased risk of heart failure, chronic liver disease, infertility and even tumors can result from prolonged use and what is called "stacking" steroids.
"Stacking" is thetaking, either intravenously or orally, of extremely high doses in four- to six-week cycles.
The big problem is that steroids work in terms of athletic enhancement. They can increase muscle mass and strength, although no proof exists that they increase aerobic capacity, endurance or athletic performance.
But tell that to big-time power lifters and body builders and track athletes, because all they know is that steroids increase their drive to train hard and their overall aggressiveness.
In 1972 it was determined that 68 percent of the U.S. track and field athletes used steroids at the Munich Olympics. Inthe 1968 Mexico City Olympics, all U.S. weight lifters used or had used steroids, the Olympic Committee found.
Runner Ben Johnson was the most notable athlete at the 1988 Olympics to use the illegal drugs, but it was estimated by U.S. track and field officials that more than 50 percent of the athletes used steroids during the year prior tocompetition but were not caught.
No question steroid use is common and a very serious problem among competitive power lifters and bodybuilders. But among high school athletes?
Severna Park's veteran football coach Andy Borland, who organizes a countywide power liftingcompetition each year, just doesn't see it.
"No, I don't think that's true at all," said Borland, disagreeing with the 6 percent to 10percent estimate. "I have a lot of respect for Dr. Lynch and send myathletes to him, but I don't think steroids are a serious problem atall in our high schools.
"Steroids are strictly for body building, and it would be really difficult for kids to get them. It's not sold in the schools (on the black market) and no reputable physician would give them to teen-agers."
Borland says kids would have to get them at private gyms where a lot of power lifters and body builders hang out. He has no doubt that most big-time power lifters use them, but doesn't believe very many high school athletes do.
Joyce Sabins,department chairwoman of physical education at Northeast High School, agrees with Lynch that the problem may be that serious, but she adds, "It's not necessarily athletes. I think there could be a good number of high school kids who don't take phys ed class but spend a lot of time pumping up in the gym who use steroids. They are looking for that gorgeous body."
So, are there telltale symptoms?
Probably the biggest tip-off is an extraordinary rapid development of muscle mass in a short time. Steroids can be detected by urine testing up to ayear after discontinuing use.
"You would be surprised how easy itis to get them in some of these private gyms," said Sabins.
A fear among coaches and parents is that the kid uneducated about steroidscould end up with phony drugs as well as the dangerous real McCoy.