Lifters sound off about steroids |

Lifters sound off about steroids

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Sierra Athletic Club member Dennis Kankel curls Wednesday. Kankel said he works out three to four times a week and gets some sort of exercise every day.

Kyle Leake was clued in to his best friend’s steroid use by his change in behavior.

“His anger level went up,” Leake said, while lifting weights at the Sierra Athletic Club.

Doctors agree that anger is among common side effects with anabolic steroids, along with hormonal changes and elevated blood pressure. In the wake of a scandal that has rocked professional sports, South Shore fitness buffs provide mixed opinions on its importance, prevalence and danger.

“He said it made him feel like a horse,” Leake said, huffing and puffing to illustrate his Las Vegas buddy’s breathing pattern.

The South Lake Tahoe man, donning a New York Yankees baseball cap, grinned upon thinking of former big-league slugger Jose Cansecos’s tell-all book about steroids in professional sports.

Leake, 58, said he’s considered using steroids for strength training, but he’s opted to stick with the dietary supplements like creatine. He attributes using the powder to adding 45 more pounds on the military press.

“It gets me to the gym,” he said, adding the supplement brings results. “Maybe that’s what those guys (using steroids) are thinking.”

But that explanation doesn’t seem to go far enough for health officials, Congress and even California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who admitted to using the substance as a body builder. His picture with club owner and fellow body builder Tim Christensen hangs on the wall of the Push Fitness club.

The thorny issue will involve a House committee hearing planned this week including Major League Baseball players – some who have just started spring training.

Moreover, a division of the National Institutes of Health – an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – will kick off a promotional campaign called “Game Plan” in April. The publicity campaign intends to alleviate steroid use and other drugs at a young age.

Plus, school districts in 30 states have signed on to a nationwide prevention program spun out of a Oregon Health Sciences University study based in Portland. The educational program that’s sport-team based has support from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, American College of Sports Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics and National Federation of High Schools, among others.

“I don’t see this problem going away. There’s a lot of money in sports, and the drive to compete is greater,” researcher Diane Elliot said Thursday.

Statistics in an NIH survey have reported use among high school students has fluctuated since 1999, a pivotal point in a monitoring program when the health department believed more intervention is needed.

“When our survey showed that anabolic steroid use by eighth- and 10th-graders had increased, and that the perceived risk about steroids had declined among 12th graders, we knew we had to take steps to reverse this trend before it gained momentum,” said Alan Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a division of NIH.

In the survey, the lifetime use jumped from 2.7 to 3 percent among eighth-graders in 2000. Two years later, 4 percent of seniors admitted to using them.

Whittell High School baseball coach Don Amaral has a solution – despite having no knowledge of steroid use in his program. He endorses drug testing in the schools if students’ behavior becomes suspicious.

“I’ve never had a player who I’ve suspected. I think it’s (more prevalent) in large metropolitan areas,” he said.

He believes the intensity increases at a collegiate level and should be stomped out. Still, he doesn’t necessarily think reports of professional athletes performing on steroids makes young people want to emulate them.

“I don’t think professional athletes are role models. I think it’s the guy who lives down the street,” he said.

Moreover, Amaral went as far as stating steroids may even hinder baseball players’ performances.

“I don’t think steroids help Giambi and Bonds hit home runs,” he said, echoing an earlier opinion of Leake.

The topic has hit home for Amaral, whose 14-year-old baseball-playing son has expressed the desire to be stronger.

“I tell him: ‘Eat well, exercise, play sports and give up Nintendo,'” he said.

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