Hello, you last heard from me when Michael Jackson died, although I’m behind the scenes at NIDA almost every day. This time, I’d like to talk about the news that famous cyclist Lance Armstrong has given up his battle against charges that he used steroids to improve his cycling skills. This is not an admission that he used steroids, but it is major news because the Tour de France will take away all seven of his titles—he will probably return his trophies, and his name will be removed from the official records. Whenever something like this happens, NIDA gets calls from reporters and from the public wanting to learn more about steroid use.
So what’s the fuss about? First of all, everyone agrees Lance Armstrong has done a lot of good in this world. In 1996, he was diagnosed with cancer that had spread to his stomach, lungs, and brain. Doctors were not sure he would live. But he fought back, and when he was better he started a foundation that has raised close to $500 million to help people with cancer.
About the steroids: Only Lance Armstrong knows the full story behind the accusations. But the news gives us all a chance to step back and look at the reasons why people so strongly oppose using steroids to improve athletic ability—especially since so many gifted athletes have admitted to using them, including the St. Louis Cardinal’s Mark McGwire, whose record-breaking 62nd home run made big baseball news in 1998.
SBB has discussed steroids several times, so I don’t need to tell you how much they can hurt your health.
So why do smart and talented athletes risk their health and happiness this way? The same question could be asked about all drugs. Although most teens stay away from steroids, many teens use other drugs like alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and stimulants. Do they think they’ll be happier, more popular, or smarter by doing so?
Science shows that taking drugs doesn’t get you any of those things. Even professional athletes who take steroids still have to work out and train 24/7 to get any results. The best way to achieve strength, popularity, or success in school is to work hard, take care of yourself, and be the best person you can be—the real, natural YOU.
As for Lance Armstrong, if he did use steroids, he might experience more health problems as he gets older. For now, he has publicly stated that he wants to move forward with his life to devote himself to raising his five kids, fighting cancer, and attempting to be the fittest 40-year-old on the planet. Now, he says he is drug free and wants to be the best person he can be—naturally. Soon, news reporters will stop calling us about Lance Armstrong, but NIDA will keep working hard to let kids know the truth about steroids and other drugs.
Update: Since Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles, he cut ties with his Livestrong Charity. On January 17, 2013 the world saw him openly admit to steroid use in an televised interview with Oprah Winfrey.