Texas anti-doping crusader finds an audience at Univ of Waterloo

BY CHRISTINE RIVET, RECORD STAFF

University athletes are clearly the best and the brightest, but what makes so many want to inject themselves with toxic sludge in the pursuit of excellence?

Don Hooton thinks he has the answer.

"A lack of knowledge," said the Texas-based anti-doping crusader who brings his message to the University of Waterloo's varsity athletes and local high school coaches this week.

"I tell athletes if they knew what they were buying, I guarantee they would never put it into their bodies."

Hooton, who has testified before the U.S. congressional committee on performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, has served as a consultant for UW since a drug scandal ripped through the school's football team this spring.

In one of Canadian sport's largest banned-substance controversies, team-wide testing revealed nine doping violations among the football Warriors, including North America's first positive test for human growth hormone.

Hooton is president of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, named for his son who committed suicide because of what the family calls steroid-induced depression.

The foundation educates about 100,000 people annually and includes a world-class board of directors, he said.

While his seminars aren't intended to be science lessons, Hooton said he hopes to answer some of the questions student-athletes haven't yet asked.

Like, what exactly is in those vials and pills?

Athletes who assume they are purchasing pharmaceutical-grade drugs are probably getting more than they bargained for, Hooton said.

Most of the illegal performance-enhancing drugs in North America are manufactured in China in powder form and can contain hazardous levels of lead, mercury, zinc, tin and even arsenic, he said.

Once the powder arrives here, it is converted into liquid form by local dealers, often operating out of their garages or basements. They lace the stuff with cooking oil or baby oil, he said.

Even athletes who chose a straighter path can encounter banned substances, Hooton added.

A recent study by the U.S. Olympic Committee revealed 20 percent of over-the-counter nutritional supplements are spiked with anabolic steroids, often unbeknownst to the consumer.

The abuse of anabolic steroids can cause a litany of devastating side-effects from organ damage to mood swings, he said.

"I can only be hopeful that if we provide an otherwise intelligent group of kids with this bit of information that they've never heard before, at least we've given them ammunition to make better choices."

Hooton said his foundation has its work cut out for it.

Up to six per cent of high school-aged kids in the U.S. admit to using anabolic steroids, another study indicated.

Statistics show the fastest growing group among performance-enhancing drug users in the U.S. is young girls, he said.

"It's going on all over the place.

"Ask yourself, if this was going on at Waterloo, what is going on at the other schools? You already know the answer."

Hooton said he applauds UW's athletic director Bob Copeland for his "courageous" move to order unprecedented drug testing for the football Warriors after police arrested a team member for trafficking drugs.

"It's a terrible situation he uncovered there. But if Bob hadn't stood up and put the spotlight on this thing, it would still be going on while the community was completely oblivious to this dangerous drug activity going on with their kids."

Hooton said he wonders how the University of Miami will handle its own banned-substance incident.

Last week, police charged a member of Miami's baseball team with possession of a controlled substance, 19 vials of a synthetic form of human growth hormone.

Miami suspended the player from athletic activities and declined further comment, the Associated Press reported.

Hooton's message to parents and educators on both sides of the border?

"Wake up, guys. Wake up and see what these kids are doing to themselves."

http://news.therecord.com/Sports/article/775569


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