The story of Tommy Chaikin (see illustration) and his years at the University of South Carolina (The Nightmare of Steroids, Oct. 24) seemed all too familiar. I was a teammate of Tommy's and a fellow steroid user. I left South Carolina just before my junior season, in 1984, to return home to Miami. I worked for a year and then earned my bachelor's degree (but didn't play football) at the University of Florida. I'm now working toward a master's in business administration at Roosevelt University in Chicago. But before that I lived in the Roost with Tommy and all the players he mentioned in the story. I remember "sticking" my teammates—and their "sticking" me—with injections at so-called steroid parties. I went from 225 pounds as a freshman to a humongous 270 by the middle of my sophomore year. I was strong, fast—and scared. The physical effects described by Tommy are not an exaggeration; we all experienced them. When I say "we all," I mean about 90% of the linemen. It's hard to imagine what would have happened to me if I had stayed at South Carolina and continued using steroids. I feel lucky that I got out when I did.
This is an article from the Nov. 21, 1988 issue
Tommy's portrayal of the coaching staff is frighteningly correct, too. The problem begins with the coaches, and it ends with them as well. Tommy's story is a warning to young athletes. We can only hope that the NCAA can find a way to curtail this madness.
BRIAN K. ACHENBACH
I was sickened by the abuse Tommy Chaikin imposed on his body. If team doctors, football coaches and players all turn their heads the other way when it comes to drugs, then big-time football should be banned. To allow winning to become that important is unthinkable.
WILLIAM J. ROLL
It's time we took anabolic steroids as seriously as we take cocaine and other illegal substances.
RICHARD R. ROHLING
I am a high school weightlifter and former football player who has seen other students use steroids just to look big and strong. I thought it was no big deal and have thought of taking steroids myself, though I never have. I would like to tell Tommy Chaikin that by writing his story he has changed one person's view of these very dangerous drugs.
My father played football, I played football and coached it for more than 20 years, and now both my sons play it. One is a college lineman on scholarship. My wife and I like to think that he represents what college athletics is all about. He carries a high grade point average, and he works hard at athletics. He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink and doesn't take steroids. But he does feel tremendous pressure to take steroids—pressure from coaches who tell him to "get bigger, get stronger" but who never say, "Don't use steroids." Almost all the junior and senior linemen on his team have taken steroids. Nothing has been done. My wife and I are outraged at the situation. We also feel helpless. To talk to the coaches would jeopardize our son's chances of playing. By saying nothing, we feel we are condoning what is going on. Let's stop it. Let's test for steroids and demand that the colleges that make the money off these kids pay the bill for those tests. Coaches who condone the use of steroids should be banned from coaching for life. Players who test positive should also be banned.
NAME AND ADDRESS WITHHELD AT READER'S REQUEST
I was sorry to see that Tommy Chaikin's use of steroids had gotten so bad. I have known Tommy for four years—my son played with him at South Carolina—and his situation is sad to see. I am also sorry that Tommy did not take the advice of coaches and players who told him he did not need to keep taking steroids. Tommy's comment that 50% of the team was using steroids and one third was using cocaine is preposterous. Maybe some of his friends were, but that does not represent the majority of the squad.
I hope parents who are thinking of having their boys play football at South Carolina will realize that this is the nightmare of one player, not of the whole team. Tommy Chaikin could have gone to Maryland, Clemson, Notre Dame, Florida State, Miami or any other school and done the same thing. I hope Tommy gets his life straightened out, because he is a fine young man. But I don't feel that South Carolina should be held responsible for his actions.
Ormond Beach, Fla.
I find it incredible that a person who talks (brags?) about his fights, his sexual prowess, his drinking and his pulling a gun on a pizza delivery boy would have the gall to say that coach Joe Morrison's smoking habit was a poor example for his players. How can Chaikin expect anyone to believe that his abuse of steroids and alcohol and his experimenting with cocaine and LSD were related to someone's smoking habit?
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