They started giving me pills when I was 13 years old, a 6-2, 162-pound defensive back on the 1965 University of Washington football team. The trainer gave me a case of pills and told me to take 25 with each meal, to help me gain weight.
I didn't realize until much later that these harmless looking, medium-sized brown tablets contained anabolic steroids, synthetic derivatives of male hormones that can have unpleasant side effects.
I knew they were right in saying that I needed extra weight, and it never occured to me that they might give me anything unhealthy.
I still remember the day the trainer called me into his office.
"We want you to take something that will make you stronger," he said.
He had some boxes piled up in a corner of his office, and he pulled one down and gave it to me. Inside were blue, cylindrical cans like the ones tennis balls come in. He opened one and poured out some powdery brown pills. They look innocuous enough.
"You won't even taste them," he said, "You can chew them, swallow them with a drink, mix them in with your food, whatever you want. Just take at least 25 a day. You can't take too many."
I had never had any experience with drugs, and I was very trusting. I took those pulls religiously.
I sprinkled them on ice cream - sort of a steroid sundae - and ground them up in hamburger. Sometimes I just popped them for snacks, like M & Ms.
One day I threw a couple of handfuls into a casserole my mother was cooking. Nobody knew the difference until my family kept biting into hard little foreign substances at dinner.
After awhile I got tired of taking them. I wasn't gaining any weight, and I could feel my personality beginning to change. I was getting jumpy and edgy.
But I still never suspected what I had been taking until months after I stopped, when I read about weightlifters and shot putters taking steroids.
Then I asked questions.
I talked to a friend of mine, a shot putter who was taking steroids. He examined my pills and told me they weren't as strong as the ones he used, but there were indeed some steroids in each of them, along with vitamins and food supplements.
[Jim Owens, who was the head football coach and athletic director at the University of Washington at that time, said in a telephone interview yesterday, "We had food supplements and vitamins, but we did not condone steroids.]
"[We did not know (at that time) if they were safe or not. To the best of my knowledge, the football players didn't use them."]
There had never been any overt pressure put on me to take the pills, but there was friendly persuasion from members of the coaching staff: "You want to help the team, don't you?"
That worked with me. I did want to be big and strong, and to help the team. So I took the pills.
My mother finally convinced me I shouldn't take anything that long when it wasn't doing me any good.
When I announced I wasn't going to take the pills anymore, I did not get any resistance, but I was treated like a social leper for awhile. I got a cold shoulder from some teammates and some coaches.
Later that years we played UCLA at home. The Bruins had Gary Beban, Mel Farr and Harold Busby, and were 8-0. My Washington Huskles were 4-4.
I have never seen players take more drugs before a game than ours did for that one. By the opening kickoff, some of the guys couldn't wait to tear someone's head off. I was terrified of my own teammates.
The particular play that got to me came early in the second quarter. Farr ran an end sweep.One of my teammates stood him up, and two more buried their helmets in him.
Farr lay on the ground, writhing, while what seemed like my whole team circled him, yelling at him to get up and take more punishment. They were out of control.I felt lost, like a sane man playing a crazy man's game.
I was never big on contact anyway, but from that day on I never liked football as much. We won the game, 16-3, and it took most of my teammates hours to come down afterward. Not from the joy of victory, but from the "high" of stimulants.
[Owens, now in private business in Seattle, said yesterday, "Nothing illegal could be given any team member unless it was prescribed by a physician. That was my rule.]
["I didn't know about it (the alleged use of stimulants by players) and wouldn't have put up with it."]
A great deal has changed since then. One of my contemporaries is now the team physician at Washington, and he will not tolerate the use of steroids and stimulants. But I will never forget bending over to see how Mel Farr was on that one play, and a teammate grabbing me and screaming: "What the hell are you doing? Let him die."
The most influential person in my early athletic career had been my junior high basketball coach, who later became my high school track coach. His name was Frank J. Ahern, and he firmly believed there were no shortcuts to athletic success. Hard work and practice were the only roads to glory.
I am so against drugs that I have never smoked or taken a drink. I have never even had a cup of coffee because I am afraid of caffeine.
The only drug I had any contact with in high school was a painkiller - and if I had known what I was getting into, I wouldn't have used that either.
My senior year, I was one of the top high school runners in the state of Washington, a hurdler and quarter-miler on a very good track team.
Midway through the seasons, our league held what was called a "relay carnival," which was the first head-to-head competition among all the good runners in the league.It was an important meet.
In one of the sprint relay preliminaries, I was spiked by my own man while taking the baton. I kept running, and we qualified for the final three days later, but I had a gash two inches long and half an inch deep in the side of my foot. My shoe was filled with blood.
Ahern took me to a hospital and they stitched me up. But my foot was so swollen and sore, I couldn't walk unaided.
"How long do I need these crutches, and do I have to have my foot bandaged up this much?" I asked. "I have to run three races Friday."
It was Tuesday. The doctor started to laugh and shake his head. Ahern said he would take care of everything, and talked privately to the doctor while I waited in another room.
Ahern took me home and told me not to worry. I didn't go to school the next day, and on Friday only managed to hobble in on crutches. I was hurting. I couldn't get a shoe on my swollen foot.
The newspaper said, "Franklin's Chances for Relay Title Depend on DuPree." I laughed to myself, because I knew I couldn't run.
Or so I thought.
About noon that day, four hours before the meet, Ahern sent for me. I limped to his office. My teammates were putting on their uniforms and getting ready. He told me to get dressed, too. For a morale boost, I thought.
When the team left by bus for the meet, Ahern took me in his car to a doctor who took off the bandages, removed the stitches, and gave me two shots of novocaine in my foot.
Ten minutes later, I felt no pain. I was ready.
The last time my teammates had seen me, I was on crutches. Now suddenly I was running out onto the track, looking good as new. They couldn't believe it. Neither could the coaches of rival teams, who accused me of faking the injury.
I won my three events, and Franklin High won the carnival.
[Interviewed by telephone yesterday, Ahern said he treated DuPree like he would have treated his own son.]
"I only let him (the doctor) shoot you (DuPree) with novocaine after he convinced me there was no chance of permanent damage to it," Ahern said.
["I made sure of that. I took you to two doctors and they both agreed. One of them said that you could run, but you'd be in pain and the other said why be in pain if you don't have to?]
["A lot was at stake for our team and for you yourself, but if the doctor hadn't assured me you weren't damaging yourself, I wouldn't have let him give you that shot."]
But halfway through the meet my foot started throbbing. It continued to hurt more and more. By the time I got home, I was crying from the pain. I didn't sleep that night, it hurt so much.
Despite the good intentions of Ahern, our team's victory and the fact that I sustained no permanent or further damage by competing. I learned a lesson: I never took another injection to run a race or play a game.