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Steroids still hot topic in sports

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WILMINGTON -- In the wake of last week's Mitchell Report steroids in professional sports continues to be a hot topic. But do the actions of pro athletes have a lasting impact on the younger generation? John Thomas has been coaching high school baseball for 18 years. He's watched the popularity shift between different performance enhancing drugs. "There were a lot of athletes at the high school level that got into the creatine, but I haven't seen a high school athlete, a high school baseball player that I assumed was on steroids." Dr. Dale Boyd treats athletes every day, and says he does see athletes who want to become bigger, faster and stronger. "There have been reports even as early as middle school that up to 3 or 4 percent of middle school athletes have had exposure to performance enhancing drugs." Steroids are used to enhance muscle, but have negative short- and long-term side effects. Typical side effects are mood swings, male baldness sometimes loss of sex drive. Long-term use of those illegal drugs such as steroids can lead to cancers high blood pressure permanent hair loss acne that becomes a more permanent condition. Even so, some athlete would rather have the competitive edge. "There was a study done several years ago that looked at Olympic athletes," Boyd said. "And 50 percent of them said they would take a drug or medication that they would die within 5 years but if it allowed them to achieve Olympic gold medal success." Coach John Thomas tries to teach his players that even though some of their role models may have used steroids they can still be successful without the drugs. "We preach against it, hopefully their parents do," Thomas said. "And I haven't seen a big problem at the high school level. When I was at ECU in the mid '8os steroids were running rampant." Boyd says with influence of money and fame that comes with being an elite athlete the use of steroids may not end anytime soon. "I think there's going to be more emphasis on using those and I think there already is. I've seen young athletes as young as 12 years old being encouraged to take creatine. And we don't know the effects of that. They may provide a little bit of benefit but the question is at what cost?" Boyd says there's not a magic pill for success. He says parents, coaches and teachers need to tell kids that hard work, intense training and a healthy diet are the best way to become an elite athlete.

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