In the past year, numerous professional athletes, including Washington Redskins all-pro safety Tony Peters, have had charges brought against them for involvement with drugs. Others have admitted being drug abusers. Last week, Washington Post staff writer Donald Huff went to five area high schools in search of young athletes' reaction to the problem.
Q: How do you feel about professional athletes being involved in drugs?
A: James Redic, Ballou--"When an athlete, any athlete, gets involved with drugs, he does harm to himself and the outcome has to affect his family, close friends and relatives. If he's foolish enough to get involved with drugs, he must be prepared to deal with the consequences. He should have considered the consequences when he began using or selling drugs."
A: Brian Bodison, Richard Montgomery--"Kids need heroes to look up to and we need goals to shoot for. When we find out someone we look up to is dealing with drugs, it knocks us off track. We know these athletes worked hard to get to the professional level and we respect them for that. Athletes should maintain a good image for young people."
A: Darryl Pullium, Ballou--"What a player does off the field doesn't bother me that much even though I know there's no good reason for using drugs. I see him as a football player only."
Q: Is the pressure to perform a factor in drug use in the pros, college or high school?
A: Don Porter, Richard Montgomery--"We don't know what pressure pro (or college) athletes are under. The (pro) veterans worry about the rookies taking their jobs. The rookies worry about being cut. There's pressure on the college coach to win or he'll lose his job. There's pressure on college and high school players to perform or they might lose their spot. Not everyone can handle that kind of pressure."
A: Michael Bowden, Richard Montgomery--"If you win, you get recognition. You lose, you get nothing. The pros get paid if they win or lose, the colleges and high schools just get the recognition. Even we feel some pressure to win. The last two years, we've had good records and people expect us to keep going."
A: Matt Taylor, Fort Hunt--"Many of these guys have been stars so long--little league, high school, college and the pros--they don't know how to handle failure. Suddenly life stands still and they wonder what to do next. They've been so used to everything going good for them, they can't handle competition and turn to drugs."
Q: How would you handle a drug problem on your team?
A: James Redic, Ballou--"We're a team and we depend on one another. If someone is using drugs, I would talk to that person, try to convince him he's hurting our team. If that doesn't work, then I'd go to the coach."
A: Darryl Green, Ballou--"You have to tell the coach in a situation like that. Someone could get hurt, the team could suffer."
Q: What would be your solution to the drug situation?
A: Todd Flannery, Fort Hunt--"You don't know where to draw the line between the legal and illegal drugs. The doctor gives you a shot for pain so you can play the game. That's supposed to be legal. You go out and take drugs on your own and that's illegal. The players have to make these decisions; and they're human beings and make mistakes.
A: Illysee Wood, Ballou--"Society has to take the responsibility for much of the drug use because it accepts it. People in different situations handle drugs in different ways. A player has to decide for himself. He has to realize drugs will eventually slow him down or hurt him."
A: Larry Jenny, Fort Hunt--"Our society believes in taking drugs for anything. You get a headache, you take a pill; you get a pain, you take a pill. Everyone has pressure."
The Pan American Games were rocked last week by stories of athletes losing medals because of illegal use of steroids, and other athletes leaving the games because they refused to participate in drug testing. Staff writer Huff asked some high school athletes their thoughts on the subject.
Larry Jenny, Fort Hunt--"There are just too many adverse effects connected with the use of steroids. I love football and I know it would be great to be bigger. But I would worry about what would happen to my body after I finished playing football. I would never use any."
Lee Poythress, Fort Hunt--"I just don't think the body is ready for them (steroids) in high school. I know in college and the pros you may get the okay from a doctor to use them for a limited amount of time. The pros are getting paid and can afford to take that chance.
"I went to a wrestling camp in Iowa this summer and saw bodybuilder Mark Johnson. He was the biggest person I had ever seen. And he told us that he had never used steroids. If you're going to be an awesome athlete, you can do it without steroids. There's really no need even for the pros or college players to use them if they just discipline themselves and work."