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Truth about Steroids
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Taylor Hooton was a good-looking, popular guy with a promising senior year baseball season ahead of him. Chris Wash was a guard on his high school basketball team, with a good chance of getting a college scholarship. At 15, Rob Garibaldi was playing baseball on a California Angels scouting team, and at 19 he was picked by the New York Yankees in an amateur draft.

These guys sound like they had pretty good games, right? They didn’t think so.

So they made one little change to their training routines.

A year after making that change, Chris Wash got kicked off the basketball team and had to leave his school. Two years after he made the change, Rob put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. It had been less than a year for Taylor when he hung himself.

What was the change?

Each of these guys started taking pills and injections of a certain substance. Juice, they might have called it, or stackers, or roids. It all means the same thing. Steroids.

Taylor, Chris, and Rob might have gotten interested in steroids when they heard about pro athletes using them. Of course, the pros were getting fined or suspended for using—but that’s not the part the guys were hearing. Juice makes you go harder, faster, longer, and makes you look better, was all they heard. Juice gives you an edge. In everything. Steroids are synthetic hormones. The ones used by athletes are anabolic steroids—versions of the male sex hormone testosterone. Anabolic steroids cause muscle cells to manufacture extra muscle proteins. Just popping the pills isn’t enough; you have to do a heavy workout on top of them. But users claim they can pack on incredible amounts of muscle in no time. So, you can understand why Rob, Chris, and Taylor liked what they saw in the mirror.

If they’d looked closer, they might have seen changes they wouldn’t have liked.

It would’ve started with a freak nasty case of acne all over their faces and backs. Then they would have discovered they were going bald. And, where most guys grow a couple of inches during high school, they might have noticed that they stopped short. Steroids cause this. And it’s irreversible. The acne scars the skin; the hair never grows back. The stunted height is permanent.

Next, the guys might have noticed that people were avoiding them. Coaches were calling them a “behavior problem.” Where they used to be fun to chill with, now they’d go psycho over the smallest thing. Taylor injured his pitching hand punching the walls. Chris’s constant fighting got him suspended from his team. The steroids were messing with their limbic systems, the emotional center of the brain, and causing aggression, uncontrollable rages, and egos as swollen as their muscles. Their friends and families didn’t recognize them anymore.

Then there are the changes you can’t see. Juice damages the liver, causing bleeding, cysts, and tumors. Steroids cause fat to build up in a person’s arteries, which means roid users can have heart attacks and strokes in their 20s. Users who inject steroids with a needle increase their risk of HIV. Roids pump up muscles, sure, but they don’t strengthen the tendons that hold that muscle to the bone—so users can tear ligaments and actually cripple themselves. Steroids will also shrink a man’s testicles, and cause him to become impotent and grow breasts—stuff you really don’t want to think about.

Not Just a Guy's Problem

And girls, don’t assume this is just a guy’s problem. Plenty of girls take steroids too. You run the exact same risks: HIV, liver and heart damage, disfiguring acne, hair loss. And do you really want to shrink your breasts, develop a deep voice, and grow a beard?

Somewhere underneath the roar of the roids, Chris, Taylor, and Rob recognized what was happening to them. So they tried to stop. But juice has a parting shot: try to come off a high dose without help, and you get anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. For Taylor and Rob, those thoughts won.

That’s really the worst thing about steroids. If you’re an athlete, you’ve got something in you: drive, skill, dedication, strength. Steroids make you believe that those things aren’t enough, that unless you take the pill, you don’t have a chance to win.

And that’s not the attitude of a winner. A winner doesn’t believe they have to pump their muscles up to fake proportions with illegal substances before they can win. A winner doesn’t believe they have to shoot themselves full of male sex hormone before they can win.

Win under your own strength. Play without steroids. Do it for the safety of your body and mind. And do it so you can honestly call yourself a winner.

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By Jessica Van Dessel. Reprinted with permission from Listen. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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