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Few Adults Suspect Rampant Use of Steroids by Youths, Survey Finds

Fewer than one in five adults believe steroid use to be a major problem among high school student-athletes, according to a national survey released earlier this month.

The survey, commissioned by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the Taylor Hooton Foundation, and the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society, gauged the opinions of 1,002 adults ages 18 or older, 52 percent of whom were male, about adolescent steroid use. The Center for Social Development and Education and the Center for Survey Research at the University of Massachusetts-Boston conducted the survey.

Among those surveyed, only 17 percent believed steroid use to be a big problem for high school athletes. Forty-six percent said steroid use was a major issue for college-aged athletes, and 63 percent believe it to be a big problem at the professional level. Ninety-seven percent of the survey respondents believed steroids to have negative health effects.

When asked why high school athletes would take steroids, survey participants named enhancing athletic performance as the most popular response (43 percent). Others reasons included to get stronger (18 percent), to improve physical appearance (10 percent), a response to peer pressure (8 percent), and to improve chances of getting into college (7 percent).

A study published last fall in the journal Pediatrics examined nearly 2,800 youths and found that almost all engaged in some form of muscle-enhancing behavior. Changing eating habits and exercising more to increase muscle size or tone were the two most popular forms of muscle-enhancing behavior (for both boys and girls), but some youths reported the use of protein powder, the use of steroids, and the use of other muscle-enhancing substances, too.

According to the Pediatrics study, 5.9 percent of the 1,307 boys reported using steroids, while 4.6 percent of the 1,486 girls did. In this new survey, 64 percent of respondents believed boys were likely to use steroids, but only 21 percent said girls were.

"There is a clear disconnect between what the public knows and believes about steroids and their perceptions of it as a problem or lack thereof among adolescents," said Gary Siperstein, the director of the Center for Social Development and Education, in a statement. "To move forward and educate the public, this disconnect needs to be addressed."

In terms of steroid-use detection, 75 percent of those surveyed said they supported mandatory steroid testing of high school student-athletes. When given a choice between mandatory testing and educational programming, 44 percent chose the former option and 56 percent sided with the latter.

Those who reported believing steroids to have negative health effects were 1.5 times more likely to prefer mandatory testing of high school athletes. Those who believe steroid use among high school athletes to be a big issue were 1.57 times more likely to support mandatory testing.

Among all adolescents (not just athletes), only 19 percent of the survey respondents believed steroid use to be a big issue. That ranked behind alcohol (55 percent), bullying (52 percent), obesity (50 percent), marijuana use (46 percent), sexually transmitted diseases (35 percent), eating disorders (27 percent), and cocaine use (25 percent).

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