STEROIDS: THE GROWING MENACE
Four days after Grete Waitz' stunning performance in the New York Marathon, the International Amateur Athletic Federation banned seven women—three Romanians, two Bulgarians and two Soviets—from track and field competition for life for taking anabolic steroids. The contrast could scarcely be more pronounced. Waitz, who has stressed that she has never used steroids, pared nearly five minutes off her world record to win in 2:27:33, prompting Dr. Ken Foreman, a Seattle exercise physiologist who will be the U.S. women's track coach at the 1980 Olympics, to venture that with their ideal build for endurance running, "In the future I think women will be beating men in marathon races." Other experts agree that women are only beginning to tap their athletic potential.
The IAAF's action, however, comes as a reminder that instead of fulfilling that potential, some women are only too willing to blur the distinction between themselves and men by ingesting steroids, synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone, which tend to give women greater muscle definition and other masculine characteristics. Those punished were a long jumper, a hurdler, two discus throwers and three middle-distance runners: Bulgaria's Totka Petrova, the World Cup champion in the 1,500; Romania's Natalia Marasescu, the world-record holder in the mile; and Ileana Silai, the world's third-ranked 1,500 runner behind Petrova and Marasescu.
At a time of growing concern over the use of drugs in sports, steroids are the most prevalent and worrisome of all. Prescribed in therapeutic doses, usually 5 mg a day, they are used to treat post-surgical patients and to combat pituitary dwarfism. In the 1960s steroids gained favor among body builders, wrestlers, weight lifters, football players and weight-event athletes who felt that massive dosages, up to 500 mg a day, would increase their muscle bulk, weight and strength. Now even athletes with slight builds, such as middle-distance runners, believe steroids provide explosive power for sprinting at the end of races.
This may be the case, but in massive doses, steroids almost certainly cause liver damage in both sexes and, among men, shrinkage of the genitals and impotency. In women, steroids can produce a deepened voice, growth of facial and chest hair, clitoral enlargement, menstrual irregularities and impairment of reproductive capacity. Especially alarming in younger athletes is the possibility of premature bone ossification that can stunt growth. Added to the physical hazards is the ethical question of chemical manipulation of an athlete's body.
Detection techniques are fairly new, tests having been first conducted at the 1976 Olympics. Since then international federations have been testing athletes at major competitions, and the IAAF is particularly vigilant. In general, however, policing is limited by high cost and time constraints. Also, by going off steroids a few weeks before competing, athletes can usually avoid detection while still retaining what they believe to be the drug's benefits. Apparently owing to miscalculation, a number of them have nevertheless been caught, a clear majority being Eastern Europeans.
U.S. athletes are hardly innocent bystanders. Two of the six weight lifters disqualified at the Montreal games were Americans. One reason the U.S. has been spared major scandal is that little testing has been done here. But trackmen in Southern California make regular runs to Mexico, where the drug is sold over the counter. Speaking strictly of male athletes, Al Cantello, the Naval Academy track coach, says, "Every top-flight trackman in the U.S. takes steroids." Chuck DeBus, coach of the 1979 national AAU and AIAW championship track and field teams, estimates that 70% of all top-ranked U.S. track athletes, men and women, use steroids. Noting the gap between American and Eastern European women in track events, DeBus says, "I don't mean this to sound like sour grapes, but it's tough to beat them with their steroids.... In the Communist countries they are being used scientifically."
One knowledgeable U.S. observer, David Costill, exercise physiologist at Ball State University, says, "It's our American anti-Communist mentality to blame everything on the governments of those countries, but their officials are as much against steroids as anybody. What happens is, a coach or an athlete wants to try it and see if he can succeed."
Indeed, last week a Soviet sports official said, "What can we do? Steroids are freely available at our pharmacies, on prescription, which is not difficult for a trainer or athlete to obtain."
As disturbing as the prospect may be, what is needed is the authority to conduct spot checks of athletes in training. In the absence of routine international spot checks, U.S. sports governing bodies should consider introducing their own testing procedures, while at the same time taking steps to provide alternatives to drugs.
U.S. athletes take steroids partly out of frustration over the supposed disadvantages under which they labor. But the fact is that the Soviets and East Germans probably succeed in sports less because of steroids than because of their advances in the selection and training of athletes. "If athletes have confidence in their training program, they won't feel they have to resort to drugs," says Dr. Irving Dardik, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee's Sports Medicine Committee.
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, former UCLA women's track coach Pat Connolly said, "The use of steroids does—I hate to say this, but it's true—make freaks out of women. Women are beautiful creatures the way God made them, and they can do a lot of things tremendously well. We don't even have any idea of how well we can do some things because we haven't been trying very long. But by taking male hormone, a woman is really changing what she is all about."
Trouble is brewing in the form of an alleged ticket-scalping scheme at USC. According to former Trojan football players interviewed by Bill Brubaker of The Miami News, USC Assistant Coach Marv Goux sold their 50-yard-line tickets, face value up to $10, for an average of $50 apiece.
In its copyrighted story, the News quoted New England Running Back Sam Cunningham, Tampa Bay linebackers Richard Wood and David Lewis, Buffalo Tight End Joe Shipp, Chicago Quarterback Vince Evans and Cincinnati Safety Marvin Cobb, all of whom played for USC between 1970 and 1977, as being "grateful" to Goux for the ticket sales. Varsity players were given four midfield tickets for each game, the maximum allowed by the NCAA, with an option to buy four more. Unwanted tickets would be turned in to Goux, who, the story said, would sell them.
Wood, a three-time All-America, described the procedure this way: "At the start of the season, at a team meeting. Coach Goux would ask us, 'Do you want the tickets or do you want to sell 'em?' I'd say, 'Sell 'em....' We'd pick up the tickets the week of the game, then tell Coach Goux what we wanted sold. Coach Goux never made any promises. He said, 'I'll get you the best I can get you.' So Coach Goux sold the tickets, then gave us the money."
When apprised of the allegations, David Berst, the NCAA's director of enforcement, said he'd "never encountered an organized effort by a coach selling tickets for a number of youngsters at above face value." Berst labeled it a violation of two NCAA rules, one which prohibits benefits not made available to the student body in general, the other making athletes receiving unauthorized money ineligible to play.
Several of the players also said that Head Coach John Robinson knew about the scalping, and Shipp recalled Robinson saying in 1977, "When you get out of the university, don't talk to reporters about the ticket situation, because you're only going to hurt your fellow people."
In response, Robinson told Brubaker, "I think it was common practice back a number of years ago.... Since I've been here, there has been no organized operation, as such, to sell players' tickets."
For his part, Goux vigorously denies the allegations. "I'm a coach.... I've never helped them sell their tickets."
At least one former USC star said he doesn't know if Goux scalped tickets. "I'm not saying he did or he didn't," said O. J. Simpson. "I really don't know because I never had to use Coach [Goux]. I did pretty good with tickets myself." Pressed for details, Simpson demurred. "I don't want to answer that because I don't want our national championship taken away."
USC Athletic Director Dr. Richard Perry announced that the school will conduct an investigation. In all likelihood, so will the NCAA.
Back in 1930, Stanford University adopted the Indian as its athletic symbol. Seven years ago, bowing to pressure from native American groups, the Indians became the Cardinals—not the religious or feathery type, just the non-aligned color, also known as Stanford Red.
But that was only temporary. Since then the university has been trying to come up with a new moniker. In the most recent campus poll, Trees emerged as the favorite, slightly ahead of Gryphons, though neither won a majority.
We'd like to pass along the suggestion of Lin Wright, associate director of university relations at Mississippi State, who has thoroughly researched the mascot literature and found that the oyster has been overlooked. Oysters, Wright insists, readily lend themselves to mascotry. For instance, Oystermen could root for their abductor-mussel offense and their hard-shell defense. Wide receivers could be renamed Oyster catchers, team supporters could be Oysters Rockefeller and cultivate pearls to raise money. Even the pep yell would be a natural, with a cheering squad of Oysterettes chanting on the sideline, "Oysters, oysters! Raw! Raw! Raw!"
HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION
Visitors to next summer's Olympic Games in Moscow may be struck by the absence of children. The Education Ministry would "neither confirm nor deny" rumors that Moscow will be childless, but a Ministry spokeswoman conceded. "Yes, that's right. Children aged seven to 15 who aren't going to Pioneer camp or staying with relatives in the country will have to leave Moscow. The schools will be setting up summer camps for them outside the city."
It isn't unusual for Moscow parents to send their children away for the summer, either to Pioneer camps, which are sponsored by the trade unions, or to stay with country relatives. But even university students have been told that exams will be administered in May, a month earlier than usual, and unless they are helping with Olympic preparations, they may have to spend the summer elsewhere.
There has been no official explanation for the pressure to clear the city of its youth, but three reasons come to mind: such an exodus of almost a million people will reduce the congestion that is expected during the Games; it will ease the concern of officials who would be embarrassed by young people pestering tourists for hard-to-come-by commodities, such as chewing gum and blue jeans; and, with some 300,000 foreigners in Moscow, it will cut down on what the Soviets call "ideological contamination."
THEY SAID IT
•Bum Phillips, Houston Oiler coach, assessing the talents of Running Back Earl Campbell: "Earl may not be in a class by himself, but whatever class he's in, it doesn't take long to call the roll."
•Ernie Holmes, former Pittsburgh Steeler tackle, explaining his decision to embark on a professional boxing career: "When Ali put down his gloves and picked up his fork, I put down my fork and picked up my gloves."