The rage over ’Roids

Published 5:48 am Saturday, January 19, 2013

The anger over professional athletes achieving great feats of success through the use of illegal, performance-enhancing drugs has permeated sports from Major League Baseball to professional bicycling. But, are competitive students at the high school level at risk of trying to gain an added bonus by using steroids?Above, a technician at Atmore Community Hospital tests for performance-enhancing drugs.

Over the past decade or so, the world of professional athletics has been continually rocked by the use of performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids, and in Atmore, local coaches are working behind the scenes to keep the epidemic from trickling down to their athletes.

A cycling enthusiast, Atmore Christian School Athletic Director and basketball coach Tim Battles said he was disappointed to learn this week that Lance Armstrong’s seven straight Tour De France titles were tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

“I’m not even interested in looking at results from bike races anymore because they are tainted,” Battles said. “I was hoping he wasn’t doing it, but it became obvious that he was guilty.”

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Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in a two-night interview with Oprah Winfrey. He had previously denied using drugs to gain a competitive advantage en route to winning the seven titles.

Late last year, Armstrong was given a lifetime ban from cycling events.

Armstrong’s admission comes on the heels of baseball writers failing to allow some of Major League Baseball’s most dominant players into the hall of fame because of suspected use of performance enhancing drugs.

There will be no one inducted into the hall of fame this year as a result.

“I think it’s pretty bad,” said Escambia County High School Athletic Director and football coach Lev Holley.

Holley said he talks to his athletes about the problem with performance-enhancing drugs everyday and encourages them to “do things the right way.”

“When it comes to drugs and things I’m not going to uphold it,” he said. “I feel like if I accept it and tolerate it then it’s like I’m encouraging it.”

Battles said an athlete gains nothing by using an unfair advantage.

“Just do it right, do it honestly,” he said. “Do you even feel good about an accomplishment you got dishonestly?”

Hugh Fountain, Escambia Academy athletic director and football coach, said an athletic advantage should come from work habits and not drugs.

“Anyone who uses a performance-enhancing drug is cheating,” he said. “Nothing should take the place of good old hard work.”
He blamed the use of performance-enhancing drugs on “society’s insatiable desire to be number one.”

“The mark of a man is in his battle to be number one, not actually being number one,” he said.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association currently has no mandates pertaining to testing for performance-enhancing drugs, said spokesman Ron Ingram.

“Drug testing is a local school matter,” he said. “There are a lot of local schools with testing.”

While none of the three schools currently test for performance-enhancing drugs, the coaches said they aren’t opposed to the idea in the future.

Fountain said EA drug tests all new students at the school, but a test for performance-enhancing drugs is not done.
“I’d be for it,” Fountain said. “That might be something we look at in the future.”

Holley believes everyone should test for performance-enhancing drugs.

For now, the problem has not arisen at the high school level, at least not in the Atmore area. But, all three local coaches are well aware of the problem and are being proactive, warding it off before it is an issue, rather than reacting to it after it has happened.