THF issues open letter to Congress

8 years have passed since the 2005 Hearings on Steroids in Major League Baseball. That day, I told the story of my 17-year old son Taylor who died after using steroids.  We were all proud of the impact that Taylor and Rob Garibaldi’s stories had on the direction of the hearings.  As you may recall, following our statements, the Representatives began to remind the players and other witnesses about the impact that this drug use by role models was having on the youth of America.

What’s happened in the time since those hearings?

  • I am proud to report that Major League Baseball has stepped to the plate.  It is now the number one underwriter of youth education in America on the subject of appearance and performance enhancing drugs.  With its support, our foundation has educated over a half million people in the US, Canada and Latin America, and we have plans to reach millions more.  In addition, they have made it possible for the Partnership for Drug Free America to place countless anti-steroid PSAs on televised baseball games.
  • MLB now has one of the toughest performance enhancing drug testing and enforcement programs in all of sports.
  • We are also proud to tell you that the NFL and NFLPA are committed to support our efforts to reach the youth of America with our important education programs.
  • What has the Federal Government done in the wake of those hearings to help educate the country about this problem?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Today, we delivered over 500 letters to members of Congress and the Executive Branch challenging them to engage on this important subject.

Here is how the Associated Press reported the story today:

Don Hooton urges Congress on steroids education

The father of a high school baseball player who died after using steroids has written to every member of Congress, criticizing the government’s lack of funding for drug education programs.

Donald Hooton testified at the 2005 congressional hearings that featured Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and other major leaguers.

Taylor Hooton was 17 when he committed suicide in 2003. His parents think the suicide stemmed from depression that followed Taylor’s decision to stop using steroids. Donald Hooton established The Taylor Hooton Foundation to promote awareness of the steroids problem among youth.

“After all the grandstanding before the TV cameras that day, our federal government has not instituted any form of education program for our children, and it hasn’t invested any time or effort in raising awareness about scope of the problem,” Hooton wrote in his July 18 letter, which was made available to The Associated Press. “As a result, the steroid usage problem by our children has not gotten any better.”

Hooton asked the government to survey youngsters to determine the scope of the problem. He also wants such federal agencies such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse and The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to become “bully pulpits” that will promote education in schools about performance-enhancing drugs.

Here is the letter in its entirety:

Dear Congressman, Senator, Secretary ____________:

 In the now infamous 2005 Hearings on Steroids in Major League Baseball hearings, Major League Baseball was beaten unmercifully about the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs by its players.  That day, I told the story of my 17-year old son Taylor who died after using steroids.  We were all proud of the impact that Taylor and Rob Garibaldi’s stories had on the direction of the hearings.  As you may recall, following our statements, the Representatives began to remind the players and other witnesses about the impact that this drug use by role models was having on the youth of America.

 What’s happened in the time since those hearings?

 I am proud to report that Major League Baseball has stepped to the plate.  It is now the number one underwriter of youth education in America on the subject of appearance and performance enhancing drugs.  With its support, our foundation has educated over a half million people in the US, Canada and Latin America, and we have plans to reach millions more.  In addition, they have made it possible for the Partnership for Drug Free America to place countless anti-steroid PSAs on televised baseball games.

  • MLB now has one of the toughest performance enhancing drug testing and enforcement programs in all of sports.
  • We are also proud to tell you that the NFL and NFLPA are committed to support our efforts to reach the youth of America with our important education programs.
  • What has the Federal Government done in the wake of those hearings to help educate the country about this problem?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

After all the grandstanding before the TV cameras that day, our federal government has not instituted any form of education program for our children, and it hasn’t invested any time or effort in raising awareness about scope of the problem.  As a result, the steroid usage problem by our children has not gotten any better.  In my 2005 testimony, I estimated the youth usage rate to be about 5-6% of our high school population.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Health, and Center for Disease Control estimates over the past 20 years have ranged from 2.2 to 6.1%.  The most recent numbers we have are from a 2012 study done by the University of Minnesota.  In that study published in the Pediatrics Magazine, they found that 5.9% of middle school and high school aged boys admitted to using steroids.  Shockingly, they also found that 4.6% of girls in that age group have used them.

 •       Using these estimates, we can extrapolate that there are as many as 25-45 students using steroids in the average high school in America.  And these numbers don’t include those students that are unknowingly ingesting steroids via the unregulated supplements that they are taking in record numbers.

•        Stated differently, there is an average of about one (1) student using anabolic steroids in every average high school classroom in America.

 Earlier this year in partnership with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY and the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society, we sponsored a national survey which was designed by the world-renowned University of Massachusetts Center of Social Development and Education and was conducted by Gallup.  Sadly, the results were as we expected they would be.

•         Fewer than 20% of American adults recognize that we have a serious problem with youth steroid use nationally.

•        Just over 50% can even name a health effect of steroid abuse.

  And experts agree that there will be serious long term negative public health consequences as a result of this drug use.

 Frankly, I’m not surprised that adults are so unaware.  Our kids keep this behavior secret and deny the behavior, just like they see their favorite elite athletes do.  And while our media focuses nonstop attention on this subject every time an elite athlete is accused of using steroids, no one has focused on the most serious component of this behavior – the fact that about a million to a million and a half of our children are using drugs that are illegal for them to possess without a legitimate prescription and have been proven to be seriously harmful to their health and wellbeing.

 Think about this – if every single Major League and NFL player was using anabolic steroids, we couldn’t fill a typical high school football stadium.  But, we have enough children using these drugs to fill up either nearly every Major League ballpark in the country.  And, from what I’ve observed, no one is reporting on it and no one in Washington is doing anything about it!

 What should our leaders in Washington be doing about this problem?

 •        Market research:  We need to conduct a “real” survey of America’s youth to assess the size of the problem.  We do NOT have any confidence in the current numbers being touted by NIDA and other government agencies that lead the uniformed observer to conclude that we don’t have a youth steroid problem.  We encourage you to consider providing funding to an independent market research agency (e.g., the UMass/Gallup team) so that they can create and implement a meaningful youth usage study.

•       We want the relevant agencies in the Federal Government to drive “REAL” education on this topic into America’s schools.

•        All relevant agencies, e.g., NIDA, SAMHSA, etc. should be using their bully pulpits to drive real national awareness at all levels of society (adults, coaches, law enforcement, others)

 This correspondence is being sent to all members of Congress as well as to the heads of relevant agencies in the Executive Branch.  We are hopeful that we will hear from a number of you who are interested in working with us on this important youth drug abuse issue. The Taylor Hooton Foundation will be publishing your answers on our website.

 Sincerely,

Donald M. Hooton

 

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