Steroids and sports a scary mix

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:03 AM ET

What are you telling your kids about steroids?

It matters. It matters a lot.

If you're a parent, you probably thought you need only worry about ecstasy and crack, maybe pot or the date rape drug.

Welcome to the new millennium, where narcissism kills.

David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency, generated worldwide headlines when he said the European underworld is making more money from bodybuilding drugs than some narcotics.

"Trafficking in steroids is now seen as a more lucrative task for those working the underworld than trafficking in some of the more familiar social drugs," he said.

"Steroids are getting to the stage of being too available. Therefore, the temptations and the risks that our athletes are taking become greater."

Howman said he gets his information from Interpol. A call to the RCMP reveals no noticeable upswing in the illegal steroid trade.

"I haven't noticed any marked departure from the norm in our investigations," Cpl. Glenn Stefureak said.

While the list of banned drugs varies from country to country, it is illegal to import steroids into Canada without the permission of the federal government. Androstenedione, the drug Mark McGwire used to help break the single-season home run record, is legal in the U.S., illegal in Canada.

Still, despite the differences in how governments approach steroids, it's hard to believe the European situation differs markedly from North America.

It's a global marketplace. The Internet provides a how-to outlining every element of steroid use. On AnabolicSteroids.com, for example, a book called the Steroid Bible boasts "everything you ever wanted to know about anabolic, tissue-building steroids."

Included in all that good stuff: "How to pass drug tests for steroids and other drugs."

Name one of the seven deadly sins. Sports has helped usher most, if not all, into the mainstream through your TV screen. Pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. Okay, maybe not sloth. Substitute recklessness.

Over here, Barry Bonds, who turned himself from whippet-thin outfielder to Godzilla, threatening the career home run record thanks, in some measure, to his friends at BALCO, the supplement people.

Over there, Gary Sheffield, who avoided suspension from Major League Baseball because he didn't know that a cream he was applying contained steroids.

Track stars Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones may have been hounded from the Olympics, but if allegations are true that they have taken steroids, the fact they have kept their medals is a grotesque injustice.

If Ben Johnson proved anything, it's that steroids work. Never mind the consequences.

"My tendons and ligaments got all torn up. My muscles got too strong for my tendons and ligaments. And now my body's not producing testosterone. You know what that's like? You get lethargic. You get depressed. It's terrible."

The speaker was Ken Caminiti, talking in 2002 to Sports Illustrated.

Caminiti, who once famously estimated that 50% of major-leaguers used steroids, died this month in the company of several people with multiple drug offences. He was a cocaine addict with profound psychological problems and while word has not yet arrived on his exact cause of death, his legacy remains a profoundly mixed one.

Dead at 41, Caminiti used steroids to win a most valuable player title. He was big and tough and all-world, another hulking big-leaguer who hit the ball a mile and made a lot of money.

Didn't do him much good. Maybe you should tell your kids about him.


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