Do Teens Use Performance Enhancing Drugs to Emulate Their Professional Athlete Role Models?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Jay R. Hoffman, PhD, Chair and Professor at the Department of Health and Exercise Science of The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), et al., in the Jan. 2008 Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study "Nutritional Supplementation and Anabolic Steroid Use in Adolescents," provided the following:

"A confidential self-report survey was administered to 3248 students representing grades 8-12 in 12 states in the continental United States by their teachers during homeroom or physical education class...

Early studies reported that adolescent AS [anabolic steroid] use ranged from 6 to 11%, but recent investigations suggest that AS use may be lower (ranging from 1.6 to 5.4%)...

The influence that professional athletes have on adolescent AS use is not well known. Although it has been suggested that athletes as role models have a responsibility to their young fans, few studies have actually examined this influence. In this study, approximately 20% of high school age males and females suggested that professional athletes do influence their decision to use AS...When students were asked whether AS use by professional athletes influenced their friends' decisions to use AS, affirmative responses rose to nearly 50%...

The results of this study do not provide conclusive evidence on the relationship between sport figures and adolescent drug use, but they do suggest that adolescents are influenced by media exposure of their heroes using AS."

Jan. 2008 - Jay R. Hoffman, PhD 

Norman Fost, MD, MPH, Professor and Director of the Medical Ethics Program at the University of Wisconsin, in his Dec. 15, 2008 email to ProCon.org, wrote:

"I would neither agree or disagree with your proposition [question]. It is too simplistic and, in my view, misses the main reasons teens use performance enhancing drugs.

There are different performance enhancing drugs, used for different reasons, with different risks and benefits. If you restrict the discussion to anabolic steroids, I think the main reasons teens use these drugs are to enhance performance in competitive athletics, and particularly for males, to improve their appearance so they can attract females. Contributory factors include evidence that anabolic steroids are effective for these purposes; misinformation about risks; a general societal tolerance for performance enhancing drugs in society (alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, Viagra, beta-blockers,etc); and widespread use of such drugs by celebrities, their parents, and other role models."

Dec. 15, 2008 - Norman Fost, MD, MPH 



PRO (yes)

Digital Citizens Alliance stated the following in its Oct. 7, 2013 report titled "Better at Any Cost: The Dangerous Intersection of Young People, Steroids, and the Internet," available at its website:

"To many young athletes, steroids may seem worth the risk because the headlines confirm that their favorite athlete made it to the top of their sport by using APEDs [appearance- and performance-enhancing drugs]...

Professional athletes using APEDs send a dangerous message to young athletes.

  • STEROID USE IS CRITICAL. One in five males ages 18 – 25 said that taking APEDs is 'the only way to make it in professional sports.' An additional 24 percent said it was 'critical to enhancing one's athletic performance.'

  • PRESSURE IS ON. A whopping 77 percent of males surveyed said that APED usage in professional sports 'puts pressure on young athletes to use drugs to get ahead.'"

  • Oct. 7, 2013 - Digital Citizens Alliance 



    Greg Schwab, Principal at Mountlake Terrace High School (Mountlake Terrace, WA) and former University of Oregon offensive tackle football player, stated the following in his June 18, 2002 testimony for the hearing "Steroid Use in Professional Baseball and Anti-Doping Issues in Amateur Sports" before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, Foreign Commerce, and Tourism:

    "For many male high school athletes, pro athletes are major influences. They are the role models. They choose the jersey numbers of their favorite professional players. They emulate their training regimens. They emulate their style of play. And they are influenced by their drug use. When a professional athlete admits to using steroids, the message young athletes hear is not always the one that is intended. Young athletes often believe that steroid use by their role models gives them permission to use. That it is simply part of what one must do to become an elite athlete."

    June 18, 2002 - Greg Schwab 



    Gary Wadler, MD, Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) Prohibited List and Methods Sub-Committee, in his written statement for the Mar. 17, 2005 hearing on "Major League Baseball and the Use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs" before the US House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, wrote:

    "Baseball, our national pastime, for better or for worse is a role model sport and likely contributes to the alarming abuse of anabolic steroids by teenagers. Just reflect on the enormous increase in sales of androstenedione (andro), the year after Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris' long standing home run record.

    The most recent data from the annual National Institute of Drug Abuse's Monitoring the Future survey (4.2 MB) reveals that in 2004, 3.4% of 12th graders have used these drugs at some time in their lifetime and as many as 1.9% of 8th graders have used them -- very disturbing statistics."

    Mar. 17, 2005 - Gary I. Wadler, MD 



    Frank and Brenda Marrero, parents of the late steroid use victim Efrain Marrero and founders of the Efrain Anthony Marrero Foundation, in their Jan. 8, 2008 letter to US Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), published on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform website, wrote:

    "The eyes of the world were riveted on Barry Bonds as he broke one of the most sacred records in the sports world - Hank Aaron's home run record. How ironic that while he was closing in on that coveted mark he was also under investigation for using steroids to achieve his baseball success. Hundreds of thousands of young athletes in this country are watching how this drama plays out - will Barry Bonds go down in history as a true sports hero or be dismissed as a cheater? Make no mistake -- the answer to that question will affect how our children approach their own athletic endeavors.

    Did Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or any other elite athlete use steroids? That is the question your hearings have to answer. I can tell you, however, that my nineteen year-old son Efrain believed they did. Efrain, a promising college athlete, confessed to steroid abuse in the fall of 2004 because of the devastating side effects he was experiencing. When asked what led him to use steroids he replied, 'Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire did it!' Three and [a] half weeks after he quit using steroids 'cold turkey' my son took his own life - a victim of the deep depression that accompanies withdrawal from these drugs. The sight of our son lying lifeless in our home is forever seared into our soul, and we can't help wondering how many other families risk experiencing the same horrifying tragedy as their youngsters turn to steroids following the footsteps of their sports heroes."

    Jan. 8, 2008 - Brenda Marrero 
    Frank Marrero 



    Henry Waxman, JD, US Representative (D-CA), in his May 26, 2005 statement "Statement of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Minority Member Committee on Government Reform Markup of the Clean Sports Act of 2005" published on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform website, stated:

    "We learned about the experiences of three families -- the Hootons, the Garibaldis, and the Marreros - whose lives were shattered when their sons committed suicide after using steroids. And we learned that their sons are not the only ones at risk. As many as 500,000 teenagers have experimented with steroids...

    This legislation is an effort to break the cycle of steroid use that endangers our children. Aspiring young athletes need to know that steroid use in the pros leads to suspension and expulsion, not home run records and adulation. The tough standards in this legislation will reduce the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports. And in doing so, the legislation will reduce the use of these dangerous drugs by college and high-school athletes.

    There is an absolute correlation between the culture of steroids in the major league clubhouse and the culture of steroids in high school gyms. If we can remove steroids from the clubhouse, we will fix the problems in school locker rooms."

    May 26, 2005 - Henry A. Waxman, JD 



    Jim Scherr, MBA, Chief Executive Officer of the US Olympic Committee (USOC), in his written testimony for the Feb. 27, 2008 hearing on "Drugs in Sports: Compromising the Health of Athletes and Undermining the Integrity of Competition" before US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, wrote:

    "People, particularly young people, are educated as much by observing what happens in their world as what is presented in the classroom. And when it is disclosed that certain athlete role models have used banned substances to improve their performance, it sends a terrible message on many levels...

    Both children and adults are exposed to a constant barrage of advertising, news stories regarding how celebrities have used certain drugs to retain or renew their youth, and suggestions that certain exotic 'natural substances,' readily available in health food stores, offer a panacea for health, fitness and well-being. Such information often masks reports of the tragic consequences that can lead to depression, suicides, and the development of other fatal conditions, all of which appear to have resulted from the use of certain of these substances."

    Feb. 27, 2008 - Jim Scherr, MBA 



    CON (no)

    Bobby L. Barnes, Head Football Coach at Buckeye Union High (Buckeye, AZ), in his written statement for the Apr. 27, 2005 hearing on "National Football League's Policy on Steroids" before the US House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, wrote:

    "I cannot speak for the young men who have used steroids to enhance their athletic abilities but it is my belief that our kids did not try steroids simply because of some professional athlete. It is my opinion that they were just trying to get bigger, faster, and stronger, the easiest and fastest way they knew how. I consider their actions selfish and ill advised.

    In looking at all the circumstances, I believe they never felt what they were doing was anybodies business, and I feel they never worried about the consequences."

    Apr. 27, 2005 - Bobby L. Barnes 



    Radley Balko, Senior Editor of Reason magazine, in the Jan. 15, 2008 Intelligence Squared US debate titled "We Should Accept Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Competitive Sports," moderated by Bob Costas, stated:

    "So what about the children? Survey data actually shows that teen steroid use has mirrored the use of other illicit drugs over the years. It went up mildly in the 1990's, and has since either dropped off slightly, or leveled off since 2000. It's likely that the same trends that govern cocaine or marijuana use govern teen steroid use far more than what's happening in the sports pages. In fact, a study released last year (344 KB) , and one of the few studies to actually attempt to find out what motivates teen boys to take steroids, found that the most reliable indicator of steroid use was a teen's own self, self esteem and body image. The suggestion, and I think we can all agree it's pretty intuitive, is that teenage boys who do take steroids do so not because they want to look like Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire, but because they want to look good for teenage girls."

    Jan. 15, 2008 - Radley Balko 



    Jamie Morris, Resource Development Director at Boys and Girls Club of Evansville, in the Mar. 14, 2008 Evansville Courier & Press article "Focus on Parents, Not Clemens and Bonds," wrote:

    "What is disturbing about Major League Baseball's and George Mitchell's approach to the steroid issue is their claim that baseball needs to be 'cleaned up' for the sake of children. While I certainly agree that our children deserve to have professional athlete role models who follow the rules and are responsible citizens, there is a very serious missing link in this argument. What about the parents of the kids who are taking steroids? What would do more good for our children, our schools and our neighborhoods is to clean up the behavior of parents.

    I am no expert on the process of obtaining anabolic steroids. I seriously doubt, however, that a 13-year-old student athlete has the ability to walk down to the corner drugstore and obtain steroids. For that matter, are we really to believe that just because a professional athlete admits to taking steroids, student athletes across the country are automatically going to have the desire to take steroids? This is an absurd concept. The parents of student athletes who take steroids must play a major role in this process, from encouraging use to procuring the drugs.

    If Major League Baseball and other professional sports are serious about addressing the steroid issue for the sake of children, as they have professed, they must be willing to address the behavior and involvement of overzealous parents. If a child is found to have illegally used steroids to enhance his athletic ability, the parents of that child should be held responsible. Why is this viewed differently from parents who provide alcohol or illicit drugs to their kids?"

    Mar. 14, 2008 - Jamie Morris 



    Aaron Steinberg, Editor of The CEO Report, in his Aug. 6, 2007 Reason online article "Don't Blame Barry," wrote:

    "Sports talk radio is fond of throwing out the argument that steroid use among pro athletes translates into use among the high school athletes who emulate them. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) was so convinced of the simple, causal connection that he wrote it into his committee's steroid testing bill, The Clean Sports Act of 2005, and then cited it as the primary motivation behind the law...

    Steroid hysterics in Congress would say it goes something like this: The press reports on pros using steroids; teens learn about steroids in the pros, but the coverage is negative; Congress sends kids a clear signal that steroids won't be tolerated in the pros; and what would have been a rising tide of steroid users is abated.

    But then again, it could go like this: The media exposes the use of steroids in the pros; thanks to the coverage, more kids try steroids than would do so otherwise; and a downward turn in teen steroid use instead trends up to flat. Maybe both scenarios influence use and cancel each other out. Maybe neither factor in at all. It's fun to play speculative games, but at the end of the day, despite Waxman's assertions, there's no proven correlation...

    In other words, kids may undervalue long term risk and overvalue short term gain, but they aren't morons. Those who use steroids seem to care most about what steroids can do for them, not about emulating the figures on baseball cards."

    Aug. 6, 2007 - Aaron Steinberg