Thursday, December 13, 2007

Steroid Stud or Athlete?

The headlines in the New York Daily News read, “CHEATERS” over pictures of Roger Clemens and Andy Petite. In USA Today, the headline read “A Collective Failure.”

I was in awe Roger Clemens’s power. His Cy Young awards. His World Series rings. I was living in Boston, but he dazzled baseball fans everywhere. He was the Rocket.

When I heard that his trainer told Senator Mitchell that he’d injected Clemons with steroids, I felt sick. One of my first thoughts was for young people who looked up to him. How would they respond?

The evening news included short interviews with kids. One, about eight years old, said sadly, “I thought Roger Clemens was all about the work ethic. It was all about the steroids.”

Clemens vehemently denies the allegations. We’ll be hearing more from him. But some news analysts say the players named in Senator Mitchell’s are forever tainted.

Talk about a colossal teachable moment. I hope that parents are using the release of the Mitchell Report to talk with their kids. The conversations can reach far beyond steroid use, although, according to colleagues who work in high schools, steroid use is not uncommon there, and many kids know it.

This is one of those times to ask kids questions, listen to their answers, and then follow up. You can ask, “Why would someone cheat?” “When someone wins by cheating, how do you think they feel?” “If you worked for and got something you wanted a lot, and then you were charged with cheating, how do you think you’d feel?” “What do you love most about winning or doing well at something?” “If you were playing a game – clean and honestly – how would you feel playing against people who were cheating?”

These questions help kids think through situations without actually living them. They learn by trying to put themselves in another person’s head. Then maybe when they’re faced with the decision to cheat or not to cheat, they’ll make the right choice.

Jose Ruiz, age 18, loves baseball. He dreams of playing in the Major Leagues. Here’s what he told me when I interviewed him for Words Can Work: When Talking About Steroids. “Using steroids will catch up with you. At first you might be seen as the stud, one of the guys everyone talks about. But when you get caught, it’s going to be devastating because everyone will think of you as that steroid person, not the great athlete.”

Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling hosts the Words Can Work DVD, Steroids: True Stories Hosted by Curt Schilling which profiles two young adults and their choices around steroids. On his blog, 38pitches.com, Schilling writes about the Mitchell Report. “The amount of damage done to the sport will be far reaching,” he says, “and I don’t know that we’ll ever truly know how bad it is until people a few generations from now are looking back on this era.”

In his closing narration of Steroids: True Stories Hosted by Curt Schilling Schilling says this:

“If you’re faced with the choice of using steroids, remember what you’ve heard in these stories. Steroids can harm you and the people around you. And the benefits of staying strong naturally will last a lifetime.”

Resources
Steroids: True Stories Hosted by Curt Schilling
Words Can Work: When Talking About Steroids

Related Issues and Answers columns
A sister’s story
A story of addiction
Avoiding steroids
Girls and steroids

Related columns for young people

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