New York • American adults rank steroid use among adolescents as less of a problem than alcohol, bullying, marijuana and sexually transmitted diseases, according to a study released Thursday that was co-commissioned by baseball's Hall of Fame.
Those polled also ranked cocaine, obesity and eating disorders as bigger problems. While 97 percent of the respondents believe steroids cause negative health effects, just 19 percent think steroid use is a big problem among high school students.
"Steroids and performance-enhancing substances remain a mystery to the American public," Hall President Jeff Idelson said.
The survey of 1,002 adults by was conducted by The Gallup Organization from Oct. 9 to Nov. 10 and commissioned by the Hall, the Taylor Hooton Foundation and the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society.
"We have an adult population that is virtually oblivious to the fact that the problem even exists," said Don Hooton, whose 17-year-old son Taylor committed suicide in July 2003, an act doctors attributed to depression caused after he stopped using performance-enhancing drugs.
While 63 percent thought steroids were a problem among professional athletes, just 46 percent thought it was an issue among college athletes and 17 percent among high school athletes.
"The American people haven't connected the dots between steroid use and our children," said Neil Romano, chairman of the Hooton Foundation and former director of the White House office of drug abuse policy.
Backers of the study estimated that the average high school in the U.S. has 25-45 students using steroids, which translates to an average of one per class.
"The bulk of the nation's attention regarding steroid use is solidly fixed on the professional athlete," Romano said. "While it's understandable because of the celebrity involved, it's drawn our attention as a country away from what is rapidly becoming a growing national tragedy among our young people."
Don Hooton testified before the House Government Reform Committee in 2005 and faulted the politicians for their lack of follow through.
"What's the Congress done about this problem in the wake of those hearings? Nothing. Absolutely nothing," he said. "After all the grandstanding before the TV cameras that day, our federal government hasn't instituted any form of education program for our children, and hasn't invested any time or effort in raising awareness about scope of this problem nationally."