Houston Athletes Fight Steroids

"Be smart. Stay drug free." That's the message from Houston's professional sports teams in a new anti-steroid campaign. The posters are going out to Texas middle and high schools and feature some well-known athletes speaking about the dangers of steroids. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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Four Houston athletes are the face of a new campaign to discourage students from using performance-enhancing drugs like steroids. Tracy McGrady of the Rockets, Eric Winston of the Texans, Brian Ching of the Dynamo and Carlos Lee of the Astros all lent their support to the effort. Last session the state legislature passed a bill that requires steroid testing among student athletes. State Senator Kyle Janek, who authored the bill, says it's important legislation to have, but he thinks this campaign will be as effective if not more so than anything the state government could accomplish.

"Not too many high school kids are going to care much about what a state lawmaker says. But when they see Oliver Luck, when they see Brian Ching, when they see Carlos Lee, when they see Eric Winston -- their heroes on the sports field who say you can be a professional athlete, you can excel at your game, and you can do it clean and do it by the rules -- that is what's going to matter."

Texas is now one of three states, along with Florida and New Jersey, with mandatory random steroid testing for high school athletes. The testing goes into effect after Labor Day and applies to students participating in UIL sporting events. A study by Texas A&M University indicates less than two percent of student athletes use steroids, but lawmakers expect the testing program to provide more complete statistics. Brian Ching with the Houston Dynamo is one of the athletes involved in the campaign. He says peer pressure and self-imposed pressure is a problem for young athletes.

"Ok, maybe I'm not as big and strong as this other guy so they'll think ok what's the easy shortcut to become just as big and strong? But I think that they're unaware of the potential dangers that are going to be down the road and they're just looking at the short term gains. So I think the more we can make kids aware of the dangers and the peer pressure, if we can prevent them from caving in to the peer pressure for the short term, the better it's going to be for the kids."

Oliver Luck, owner of the Houston Dynamo soccer team, is the person who mobilized the local sports teams to come up with this campaign.

"Even before the bill was signed I thought to myself there's got to be a way that the Houston professional sports teams can come together, join forces and create a very positive message for high school athletes in all the sports, boys and girls."

The posters were created at no cost to the state or school districts. All of the services for the campaign were donated by various companies. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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