"I'm much stronger" ["Shane," 19, Steroid User]
11/15/2004 at 02:00 PM EST
It's Friday evening, and the 19-year-old college freshman, who prefers to go by the pseudonym "Shane," steps out of the shower and prepares for the ritual he now undergoes twice a week. He dries off, swabs a patch of skin with alcohol, draws a small amount of clear yellow fluid from a glass vial into a syringe, then injects himself in his buttocks. Unlike a cocaine or heroin user, he feels no rush of well-being. But after only two weeks of taking testosterone enanthate, an anabolic steroid, Shane is already feeling another high of sorts. He has put on 11 lbs. and upped the weight he can bench-press from 185 to 215 lbs. "I'm much stronger," he boasts. "I wanted something to give me an advantage on gaining size in the shortest time possible."
Call it the shot being felt around the country. It's hard to have missed the steroid scandal that continues to roil the professional sports world, especially baseball. (Last year star sluggers Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi were brought before a San Francisco grand jury to tell what they knew of Balco, a Bay area lab that has been implicated in the trafficking of performance-enhancing drugs for elite athletes. Both players have denied using steroids.) Less noticed – but no less important – is the rising concern that the use of such drugs has also become a significant problem among ordinary young people in their teens and 20s. Among the sobering statistics, according to a study out of the University of Michigan: A full 8 percent of 12th-grade boys admitted to using either steroids or substances like androstenedione – which, in the body, metabolize into steroids. Even more troubling, 2.5 percent of kids in eighth grade report they've tried steroids. And these aren't all male gym rats. "What have we done to our culture?" asks Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, who has long been an antisteroid crusader. "The ignorance of the consequences of using these substances is astounding."