STEROIDS AND THE YOUNG
The reasons for concern about performance-enhancing drugs increased as 1988, the Year of Steroids, neared its end. An article published in last week's Journal of the American Medical Association found that 6.6% of male high school seniors—as many as 500,000 nationwide—use or have used anabolic steroids and that more than two-thirds of them first tried steroids when they were 16 or younger. "We're not talking about casual use of anabolic steroids," says the primary author of the study, William E. Buckley, an assistant professor of health education at Penn State. The young athletes are "stacking the drugs [taking more than one type simultaneously to increase the muscle-building effect], and 30-some percent are using needles," says Buckley. "That's fairly hard-core behavior."
Anecdotal evidence had suggested steroid use among male adolescents, but no comprehensive national work had ever measured the extent of that use. The Buckley study, which was based on a sampling of 3,403 male 12th-graders from 46 U.S. high schools, indicated that 47.1% of the users took the drugs to enhance athletic performance, 26.7% did so to improve appearance and 10.7% used steroids for injury prevention or treatment—even though, as Buckley and his coauthors point out, using steroids for prevention and treatment of sports injuries is "not accepted medical practice "in this country."
The effects of steroids on adolescents haven't been thoroughly researched, but it's feared that the drugs may cause liver damage, overly aggressive behavior and premature sealing off of the growth plates in the knees, elbows and other joints. In light of those worries, it's ironic that the youthful users tend to believe they are stronger and healthier than their peers. Disturbingly, 21% of them said they had been given steroids by a physician, pharmacist or veterinarian; the others obtained theirs from friends or elsewhere on the black market. The study also revealed that 35.2% of the steroid users weren't involved in school sports.
"It's not just an athletic problem," says Buckley. "You can't just hold a team meeting and tell the players not to use anabolic steroids, because you'll miss a third of the users." Buckley suggests that steroid-education programs are needed at the high school level or lower; a third of the users who participated in the study said they had first tried the drugs by the age of 15.
YOUR CHEATIN' HEART
To lampoon the payoffs and other violations allegedly committed by coach Eddie Sutton and others connected with the Kentucky basketball program, some Louisville musicians have recorded a ditty called The Ballad of Coach Eddie, using the tune of the old Beverly Hillbillies theme. The song's final stanza: "You're all invited back next year to see the boys play/If they survive the ruling from the NCAA." The group bills itself as The Fifty-Dollar Handshakes.
THE WON'T-CALL WINDOW
Everyone got a chuckle last August when Houston Oiler coach Jerry Glanville, on a whim, left a sidelines pass for Elvis Presley at the will-call window before an Oilers-Patriots preseason game in Memphis. Glanville, an Elvis buff, so enjoyed the reaction to his gesture that he continued leaving tickets for local celebrities—some dead, some alive, some not exactly celebrities, some...well, you get the picture—at away games all season.
Glanville left passes for James Dean in Indianapolis, Buddy Holly in Dallas, Loni Anderson in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh Zoo director Charles Wickenhauser in that city (an act of atonement: Glanville created a furor in the Steel City last year by remarking that the town didn't even have a decent zoo to visit), and the Phantom of the Opera at New Jersey's Meadowlands. Glanville planned to leave tickets in Philadelphia for W.C. Fields or Ed McMahon—"I'm not too sure they're not the same person," he explained—but didn't leave any because Houston was coming off a big loss.
None of the celebrities appeared to claim his free ducats, but an Elvis impersonator did show up at one Oiler practice.