Florida Cracks Down on Steroid Use

Florida is the latest state to take action against steroid abuse in high school athletes, launching a one-year pilot program to crack down. It's the third state to issue mandatory testing for the drugs, following New Jersey and Texas.

"We want to send a very loud message that it's wrong, you shouldn't do it and it won't be tolerated in Florida," Florida Gov. Charles Crist said.

The effectiveness of the program is in question because only a few hundred of Florida's 77,000 high school athletes will be tested, including football and softball players. Girls who play flag football will also be tested.

And the tests come with a cost: Florida will pay $175 for every test it administers.

Chris Merritt, coach of the Columbus Explorers football team at Miami's Christopher Columbus High School, says that while all players are not being tested yet, it's a start.

"At least right now, us as coaches, we can talk until we are blue in our face about not taking steroids, but until there is an actual system in place where you can actually get caught, peer-pressure is going to win in a lot of cases," Merritt said.

Under the plan, a positive first result means a 90-day suspension from sports. And a second positive test means a second 90-day suspension.

Richard Sixto, offensive linebacker for the Columbus Explorers, is aware of the pressure from the media, but says steroids are the easy way out.

"It is on ESPN, and we all watch ESPN and Sports Center and Barry Bonds this, and football players that," he said. "It is apparently the thing to do, but you gotta know that hard work beats any steroid you can take."

But some estimates suggest as many as seven percent of high school students have used steroids. And some suspect steroids aren't just being used by athletes in "strength" sports like football and baseball, but athletes across the high school spectrum.

"The bad part about it is that steroids work," said Dr. Julian Bailes, chief of Neurosurgery at West Virginia University. "They increase muscle mass and for sports that depend on strength and speed in particular they do probably enhance performance. Unfortunately, they are cheating, they are illegal and they lead to serious medical short- and long-term side effects."

The anecdotal tales of steroid use can be chilling.

Taylor Hooton was a talented high school baseball player, but he wanted to be better and make the varsity team. So at the age of 16, he began taking steroids.

In just a few months, Hooton gained 30 pounds. He also began experiencing extreme mood swings.

"He turned to cursing his mom and I, and on two occasions we saw 'roid rage' exhibited where Taylor would take his fist and drive it through a sheet rock wall," remembered Don Hooton, Taylor's father and founder of the Taylor Hooton Foundation.

In June 2003, Taylor Hooton committed suicide, using two belts to make a noose and hang himself on a bedroom door.

Marvel Scott, a physician in sports medicine and sports anchor at WABC in New York City, outlined warning signs for steroid abuse.

How to tell if your child is using Steroids:

The first thing to look for is dramatic physical changes. You may notice a significant increase in muscle mass-- sometimes in a duration as short as four to six weeks.

A preoccupation that goes with working out.

Psychologically, a lot of the kids will become isolated from their usual friends and activities.

Steroids are illegal. So, many of the users may feel guilty or paranoid about getting caught.

Many kids will become more aggressive or defiant than usual. Steroids involve hormones that rev up every system in your body.

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