Nine months before the 1984 Olympic Games, swimmer Steve Lundquist injured his shoulder. A physician told him he would never swim again.
"I realized at that point how easy it would be to become an alcohol or drug addict," Lundquist said yesterday at the Washington Convention Center.
But Lundquist, now 24, endured the pain and frustration and earned two gold medals in the '84 Games. Now, along with several professional athletes from a number of sports, he is traveling the country on the Team Up Against Drugs Speak-Out Tour, telling young people to stay clear of alcohol and drugs.
"A lot of kids become involved with alcohol and drugs because they're not secure with their lives," Lundquist said. "I knew some friends in college who had some problems with cocaine. They became changed people."
The 33-city tour, presented by Positive Approaches to Sports Success Foundation, made its first stop in Washington, in conjunction with the opening of the week-long HealthCare Expo '85.
Also speaking to a handful of youths, adults and media were Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Michael Cooper, world-class boxer Donald Curry, former Washington Capitals hockey coach Gary Green and former New York Jets running back Matt Snell.
Both Curry and Cooper lost siblings to drug abuse. Curry, the World Boxing Association welterweight champion, said his sister died in a motorcycle accident because the driver of the bike on which she was riding was on drugs. Cooper said his brother's death was caused by a dependence on cocaine, marijuana and alcohol.
Curry, 23, joined the tour because he said he loves helping youths. "I started boxing when I was 8. There was someone there to help me along. Now, I want to steer kids in the right direction. I love working with kids even more than training for fighting."
The athletes will be talking primarily to elementary, junior high and high school youths.
"It's a tough thing," Lundquist said, "simply because the professional athletes who use drugs are few and far between but the press makes a big deal about it."
"Unfortunately, Chuck Muncie grabbed the headlines," Snell, 44, said of the present-day NFL running back. "I wish the press would follow up on the help that Muncie is getting so that kids know they can find help."