U. Cincinnati Sports Doc talks steroids

Dr. Angelo Colissimo
University of Cincinnati

Q: You were a college athlete yourself, right?

A: I played at Colgate, I was a tailback (a two-time Academic All-American, 1979-80 and 1980-81).

Q: And that’s where you had your first experience with performance-enhancing drugs?

A: The point that people have to know is that they’ve been around since the Roman Empire. Since athletic completion began, people have looked for competitive advantage. When we were in college, it was just starting to become really popular in college football.

Q: What prompted you to start using?

A: We were playing some pretty big teams like Penn State and Syracuse in the same year, and all of those guys were taking steroids. They’d tell us they were taking steroids and they were all blown up.

Q: So it was just a matter of competing?

A: Those of us who play the game, you play the game for a reason. You compete. You compete to win and you want to win rings — you want to win championships. It’s ego, that’s what drives everything. As long as there’s competition, there will be performance-enhancing drugs and people trying to get that advantage.

Q: When did you take steroids for the first time?

A: The summer between our junior and senior year; one of the tight ends on our team went down to Arizona to train and he got on steroids. He came back and said, “Hey this stuff is unbelievable.” Back then we didn’t know anything about it, so a bunch of us started trying it and it was a pretty phenomenal result as far as what you were experiencing, the change in your physical being.

Q: What types of P.E.Ds were you guys using back then?

A: Pretty much the same things that guys are using now. The big things were anabolic steroids. There’s two ways to do it, orally — which most of us did — or injectable. The popular ones were Dianabol andDeca-Durabolin.

Q: How easy was it to attain steroids then?

A: You could get it anywhere. You could go to any gym downtown and get any steroid that you want and it’s not very expensive.

Q: Is it still that easy today?

A: Still that accessible, easy as can be. You can still get anything you want at any of those gyms.

Q: How widespread was the use back then?

A: It’s hard to say because back then we weren’t focusing on it the way we do now. But I can tell you that probably 20 percent of the kids in our locker room [at Colgate] were using them at some point. Some of the bigger schools were probably a lot higher than that. Guys would deny it, but you look at them and say, “Well you sure didn’t look like that six months ago.”

Q: But back then, you guys didn’t have any idea about possible consequences

A: We didn’t know anything. It’s just like the concussions now. You would get dinged and wouldn’t know where the hell you were. You’d wobble back to the huddle and then they’d hand you the ball anyway. That’s why our generation now is starting to feel the consequences.

Q: How much use would you say is going on now compared to then?

A: I think it’s probably more now than it was back then. I can’t say that with absolute certainty, but there are different types now and different ways. You can go to GNC and get all of these powders. A lot of guys will take that stuff and not even realize what’s truly in them. There is some anabolic stuff in a lot of those products.

Q: Why do you think use continues to be widespread, despite the consequences beingso publicized?

A: There was a study years ago, I can’t remember where I saw it, but they took athletes at the top of their game and asked if they could take a pill that would make them win the highest honor of their sport, but die one year later. Eighty-four percent of them said they would take the pill. That’s the nature of the mind of a competitive athlete.

The more they publicize it; the more kids are going to use them. The problem is they do work [and] they do help performance. There’s a reason they’re called performance-enhancing drugs.

Q: What is the P.E.D of choice in today’s college athletics scene?

A: It rotates, but what’s become really popular are 5-hour Energy type supplements [which are technically on the banned substance list], the steroids are still around. Kids are more aware of getting caught now, especially in the NCAA. They’re not as cavalier as we were back then.

Q: Have you seen college-aged people in your work who are already affected by steroid use?

A: I usually don’t see it at this level, it happens later on down the line. Now, does the fact that using P.E.Ds make kids bigger, faster and stronger — does that affect their ligaments and injury rates? There have been some studies, but it’s hard to really do because people don’t admit they’re using them. Maybe our ACL injury rates are much higher because of that.

Q: Are there any unpublicized consequences that you might warn users of?

A: . The psychiatric consequences are pretty impressive. They talk about concussions and guys that are killing themselves later in life. I wonder if anyone’s ever looked back and said, “We’re these guys using P.E.Ds.” I will tell you that when you’re on them, it changes your personality. You tend to get a lot more aggressive, intolerant, short tempered; that’s real. Your whole being kind of changes, mind you, I only used them for six months.

Q: Do you talk to UC athletes about this at all?

A: Nobody talks about it. They get tested and Bob Mangine, our head trainer, does his testing routines where he does test for them. But to us, nobody talks about it.

Q: Will we ever see a time when steroid use in sports isn’t an issue?

A: The problem we get into is, do we use them or do we not use them? There’s an integrity issue there. A lot of people say, “Well shit, we’re never going to be able to stop it.” And we’re not going to. They’re everywhere. Even today, every time we find a way to test for a given drug, they find a way to hide it. We’re constantly chasing our tail.

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: The steroid era will never end because it works too much. The competition now is worse than it was 20 years ago. It starts when you’re 3 or 4 years old, when your parents tell you that you’re going to the NFL. The guys are always going to compete and when you get to that level [collegiate], they’re going to do whatever it takes.

http://www.newsrecord.org/for_the_record/q-a-director-of-sports-medicine-talks-steroid-use/article_59169d9c-367c-11e3-85dd-001a4bcf6878.html

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