Area high school officials, coaches and administrators said yesterday that although some high school athletes use anabolic steroids, the problem is not widespread enough to warrant drug testing or intervention from school systems.
The Alexandria Journal yesterday reported that more than half of the 32 public and private school head football coaches in Northern Virginia said athletes currently on their teams have used anabolic steroids. Seventeen of the varsity coaches at public schools interviewed by The Journal say steroids have been used by players and believe the problem is serious enough to warrant an investigation.
"It's possible we've concentrated on the other drugs and alcohol abuse so much, steroid use could have slid in on us," said W.T. Woodson Coach Ken Poates, who said he knew that two of his players tried steroids three years ago. "Steroids are available, but I don't know if we have a problem. To my knowledge, steroid use is nonexistent on my team. But any month, it might show up."
Yorktown Coach Bruce Hanson said he also had two players who had experimented in steroids in the past. "I felt that was just an isolated incident at the time," he said. "Maybe other schools are having problems with steroids but it's not a problem here."
Bill Savage, coordinator of athletics for Fairfax County high schools, said his office would check to see whether the matter merits further attention.
"We've heard rumors for years and something like that is hard to pinpoint," Savage said. "But anytime our coaches have concerns about any health hazard, we look into it. We know the colleges and professionals use steroids and they represent role models to our youth. We can't have our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn't exist. Since it has not been a problem, we haven't focused as much attention to steroids as we have with recreational drugs or alcohol. If we had about 3,900 to 4,000 kids playing football last year and if less than one percent used steroids, that's about 39 kids and that's too many."
Anabolic steriods are male hormone derivatives, both natural and synthetic, that change the metabolism of muscles. Steroids add bulk to the body and increase strength, speed and power. Some research shows the drugs can have long-term side effects, such as kidney and liver malfunctions, hypertension, impotence in men and menstrual irregularities in women.
T.C. Williams Coach Glenn Furman, the area's winningest coach during the 1980s, said, to his knowledge, he has never had a player who used steroids.
"We have trouble just getting them to lift weights, period," Furman said. "We have never suspected any of our players of using steriods."
Montgomery County athletic director Bill Kyle and Prince George's County athletic director Chuck Brown say their offices have not received any comments from their respective coaches or athletic directors regarding steroid use in the past couple of years.
"We haven't had any calls about it," Kyle said. "It's either the world's greatest secret or it's not going on."