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Tommy Chaikin
October 24, 1988
South Carolina Lineman Tommy Chaikin Used Bodybuilding Drags For Three Years. They Drove Him To Violence, And Nearly To Suicide
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October 24, 1988

The Nightmare Of Steroids

South Carolina Lineman Tommy Chaikin Used Bodybuilding Drags For Three Years. They Drove Him To Violence, And Nearly To Suicide

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I was sitting in my room at the roost, the athletic dorm at the University of South Carolina, with the barrel of a loaded .357 Magnum pressed under my chin. A .357 is a man's gun, and I knew what it would do to me. My finger twitched on the trigger.

I was in bad shape, very bad shape. From the steroids. It had all come down from the steroids, the crap I'd taken to get big and strong and aggressive so I could play this game that I love.

I felt as though I were sitting next to my body, watching myself, and yet I was in my body, too. I was trying to get up that final bit of courage to end it all. Every nerve inside me was on fire. My mind was racing. I couldn't get a grip on anything. The anxiety attacks I'd been having for the last five months had become so intense that I couldn't stand them anymore. I'd lost control of everything—it's impossible to describe the horror I felt, the fear, the anxiety over that loss of control.

I could hear my teammates outside my room. They were walking back and forth, listening at the door. They talked in low voices, and they sounded very concerned. Every now and then someone would try opening the door, but I'd locked it.

"Tommy," someone would say quietly. "You O.K.?"


"You sure?"

"Yeah." I was definitely going crazy, but not in a wild way. I answered in a very calm voice. I knew I was history—it was just a matter of time. I thought about the explosion and the bullet, about how it could take away this pain.

And then I heard my father's voice. He was banging on the door. "Tommy, open up!" he said.

It was a Friday morning, the day before our game against Clemson last November, and my dad and my older brother, Mark, had arrived from our home in Bethesda, Md. They were going to come down for the game anyway, but they arrived ahead of schedule because I'd called my sister, Dawn, early that week and told her I was sick and needed help. My father flew down on Wednesday, but he really had no idea what bad shape I was in. On Thursday night I went to see my girlfriend, and mentally I was already gone. I'd lost it. I started crying, and I hadn't cried since way back when I was a kid. "Please don't think of me as a coward if I do something wrong," I sobbed to her.

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