Concern over widespread use of steroids among junior high and high school athletes has led to a $60,000 state grant to the University of Utah to produce an educational program on anabolic steroid abuse.
The state Department of Social Services' Division of Substance Abuse allocated the two-year grant to the U. College of Health's Academy of Performance Enhancement Through Applied Knowledge.The grant comes in the wake of action by the Legislature to draw attention to the increasing problem of steroid abuse among American teens.
Two legislators have introduced a bill this session to include anabolic steroids in state controlled substance statutes. It would allow doctors to prescribe the drugs only for medical purposes, not to increase muscle size or enhance athletic performance.
"It is not prohibiting the use of steroids, but regulating doctors from prescribing them for athletic reasons only," said Sen. Richard J. Carling, R-Salt Lake. Carling and Sen. Kay S. Cornaby, R-Salt Lake, are sponsoring the bill.
They say the bill resulted from expressed anxiety among the sports community about the widespread use of steroids.
A recent study by the American Medical Association showed that one in every 15 American male high school seniors uses steroids. Two-thirds of the steroid users began taking the artificial hormones by age 16; 40 percent began at 15 or younger.
Cynthia Bainbridge, director of the U. academy, said the amount of steroid abuse among Utah students is unknown because adequate statistics are not available.
The first goal of the program will be to determine current attitudes and knowledge of Wasatch Front area students, coaches and teachers about anabolic steroids. The prevalence of usage will also be determined.
After educational programs directed at these attitudes have been implemented, students' attitude changes again will be monitored, she said.
The academy is under the U. department of exercise and health science.
Anabolic steroids are man-made drugs, taken orally or by injection, that have growth-enhancing characteristics similar to testosterone, which occurs naturally in the body.
They were developed in the 1930s by German and Swiss scientists and were used to increase the aggressiveness of German troops during World War II.
In 1985, six U.S. athletes died from documented medical problems caused by steroid use. Since 1980, 25 Soviet athletes reportedly have died, presumably from steroid use. Most were Olympic gold medalists.
The research team will survey students in 72 junior high and high schools in the Davis, Salt Lake, Jordan and Granite school districts.