We all got into
the elevator, and I thought: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I was in a movie.
I was Jack Nicholson. I was Randle McMurphy. But nothing was funny. I couldn't
believe any of it. My mind was on fire.
We got off on the
seventh floor, and there in front of us was a big door with a lock on it. I
freaked. I turned to my dad and screamed, "What the hell are you doing,
man! I told you I'm not going to this place! I'm not crazy! I don't belong
attendants grabbed my arms. I looked at them and said, "No." I was very
powerful at the time, my adrenaline was flowing and my mind was reeling. I said
to the men, very quietly, "You won't last 10 seconds with me right
now." I could have broken their necks like clicking my fingers. They knew
it. They let go of my arms.
"Do not touch
me," I said. "I'll walk in myself."
I looked straight
ahead. They opened the door, and I walked in. The door closed, and my parents
and the rest of my life were locked out. In front of me I saw people milling
around, some of them blank and silent. Suddenly, everything caved in. This was
how far I had fallen. This was how far I'd gone since I'd enrolled at South
Carolina four and a half years earlier to chase the American dream.
I often sit and
wonder how it all happened, how I let anabolic steroids lead me into this mess.
I feel there's something in me—a flaw maybe, a personality trait—that brought
me down. Oh, yeah, I take responsibility for my actions. I'm headstrong, and
I've got a temper. I can't blame others for my mistakes, certainly not for
making me take dangerous drugs. But I still think of myself as someone who
started out as just a normal guy, a hard worker, a studier, a kid who loved
sports. And I feel part of the trouble comes from things outside of me—the
pressures of college football, the attitudes of overzealous coaches and our
As I recover from
my steroid use, I find myself sort of acting as my own shrink. I wish I could
have amnesia, to tell you the truth. It's very painful for me to reflect on
what happened. It's like having to watch game films of yourself where you get
chop-blocked over and over. But it's how you learn, too.
I had a normal
childhood, I suppose. I grew up in Bethesda, the youngest of three kids in an
upper-middle-class family. My dad runs his own window-replacement business, and
my mom is a housewife. My dad always wanted us kids to be successful, but he
didn't put pressure on us to excel in sports. All my drive was
I started playing
soccer when I was seven, but I got bored with it and picked up tennis a few
years later. I was pretty quick and I worked hard, and before long I was ranked
fairly high in local junior tennis. I had always wanted to play football,
though, and in my junior year at Walt Whitman High, I decided I was going to.
But my dad wasn't big on contact sports—Mark had blown his knee out playing
high school football—so it was a battle for me to get permission to play.
Finally my mom signed my release without telling my father, and I joined the
team as a split end.
I wanted to play
because all the popular guys played football. And I wanted to excel. During
that first year of high school ball, I was about 6 feet, 185 pounds, and I did
all right as an end. But then our noseguard got hurt, and I switched to that
position. I started spending a lot of time lifting weights, and I came back for
my senior season weighing about 220. My teammates were amazed at how much I'd
progressed. But the reason was simple—I'd worked real hard. I was named
all-area, all-county and all-metro, and I knew I wanted to play big-time
college ball. But I also knew I was no blue-chipper. Not at my size.