April 4, 2005 in Nation/World

Pediatricians condemn steroid use

Carla K. Johnson Associated Press

CHICAGO – Doctors, parents and coaches should take a stand against young athletes using steroids and other performance-enhancing substances, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

But drug testing with stiff penalties isn’t likely to work, the group says in a new policy statement. Instead, schools and coaches should promote fair competition.

“We’re creating a society of kids who just take a pill to improve performance and to gain an unfair advantage,” said Dr. Eric Small, chairman of the academy committee that wrote the statement.

Little is known about the safety of the substances in adolescents, Small said, and their use diminishes the value of good nutrition, training and coaching.

Seven percent of ninth-graders say they have taken steroids without a doctor’s prescription, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2003 survey.

A study of suburban New York students, co-authored by Small, found that 44 percent of 12th-grade athletes admitted using the nutritional supplement creatine, an amino-acid derivative.

Small, who practices sports medicine, said young athletes often feel pressure to beef up.

Recently, an eighth-grade boy told the doctor he wants to play basketball next year.

“The coach told him he needs to put on 30 pounds this summer to make the team,” Small said.

Small helped the boy develop a weight-training program and start thinking about how to add more calories to his diet.

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