The steroid era might, allegedly, be over in Major League Baseball, but it appears to be alive and well in high school sports. At least, there was an active enough market to support an operation that netted Ohio authorities $600,000 in anabolic steroids, spread out in the usual oh-my-god-look-at-all-the-drugs-we-have-here, ready-for-TV news conference in Lebanon, smack in between Cincinnati and Dayton, and just north of the Kings Island amusement park.
Oh my god, look at all the drugs they have there.From Fox 19 in Cincinnati:
No one has identified any high school athletes who bought steroids, or what schools they attend. However, authorities did identify the crew alleged to be behind the operation, which imported steroids from China to a lab in Tennessee, which then sent the drugs to Ohio to be sold. From the Cincinnati Enquirer:
The Warren County Drug Task Force began investigating when they were tipped off by the Countryside YMCA
in Lebanon. The ring’s leaders were targeting high school athletes at the Y. …
None of the steroids were actually dealt within the walls of the YMCA. However, according to authorities, the sellers targeted young athletes inside the gym and instructed buyers to go to lockers at a building on Reed Hartman to pick up and drop off money for the drugs.
The suspects who have been indicted hail from six Ohio counties plus Tennessee. They include a Liberty Township gym owner, a champion Cincinnati bodybuilder, a manager at LA Fitness in West Chester Township and an exotic dancer from Middletown.What will make this bust a bigger story in the coming days is something else Burke said at the Nov. 1 news conference. “There are at least two (professional athletes) we feel have an involvement in this operation,” the Enquirer quotes Burke as saying. “The investigation is ongoing and there may well be charges (against the athletes).”
“It was a tight network” that required deep undercover work to infiltrate, [Warren County, Ohio, Drug Task Force commander John] Burke said, noting the suspects knew each other from gyms and bodybuilding.
“Virtually everybody we dealt with had no criminal record,” Burke said, which is atypical for drug investigations.
While it would appear, from the lack of prior arrests, that this was an amateur operation, apparently this folks didn’t fool around. Burke announced that police also seized assault rifles, semiautomatic pistols, shotguns, ammunition and about $300,000 in cash and vehicles. It cost $25 to make each vial of steroids, but it was sold for $85 to $125 a vial — a tidy profit, no doubt. Although it brings to mind the question, where were high schoolers getting that kind of money?
They find a way. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the estimated rate of U.S. high schoolers admitting past or present use of steroids has grown from 1 in 45 in 1993 to 1 in 16 in 2005, and there are no indications the rate is not continuing to increase. As of 2005, 6.8% of male high schoolers admitted steroid use, as did 5.3% of females. By the way, steroid use among high schoolers is not a U.S. problem only.
You might ask yourself, hey, haven’t these kids gotten the message that injecting yourself with steroids is illegal, that the muscle mass you get today is outweighted by the small sexual organs and back acne you’ll have tomorrow, and that someday someone is going to expose you as a falsely built, performance-enhancing drug freak?
Well, they have, but they also get the message that bigger is better if you want playing time and a college scholarship, that you’re going to get the girl if you have muscles, and that the coach doesn’t know what you don’t tell him — and he won’t ask. So, there are always going to be some high school athletes, in the throes of their body-issue years, who have the will and the money to try out steroids.
In that case, then, you might ask, whatever happened to steroid testing of high school athletes? Well, it’s pretty much dead on any large scale, a victim of high expense and ineffectiveness, a deadly combination for states and public schools trying to find quick, easy ways to save money in tight economic times. Here are details from a January 2011 story in the Press of Atlantic City, N.J., about the problems with a New Jersey steroid-testing plan that spent $400,000 to test 2,000 athletes to find one positive result.
Two other states — Texas and Florida — have tested high school athletes with similar results.New Jersey is still testing athletes. So is my home state of Illinois, though it’s being carried by the state’s high school athletic association on its own after a state legislative mandate expired. And that’s it for statewide steroid testing of prep jocks.
In Texas, nearly 50,000 tests since February 2008 have found about 20 confirmed cases of steroid use. The program began in 2007 with a $3 million annual budget but since has been reduced to $1 million and was almost eliminated completely this year due to the state’s budget crisis.
In Florida, only one of 600 students tested positive in 2008. The state ended its testing program in 2009.
I wouldn’t expect Ohio to jump on the testing bandwagon after this bust, though I’m sure there will — and should — be plenty of hand-wringing over what’s going on with steroids and school sports. However, that discussion may dissipate as soon as names are attached to the pro athletes alleged to be involved in the recently busted ring.