Attention, high school athletes: Are you thinking about using anabolic steroids? Already doing so? According to the studies, a disturbing number of you and your peers have already made that choice.
This seems like a good time to mention this: Another professional wrestler died this month. Scott Hall, aka Razor Ramon. He admitted to steroid use (he had related issues with other drugs and alcohol). This is old (sad) news. Pro wrestling is rife with steroids. And premature deaths. Hall was 63. He was on life support after several heart attacks, and he had had severe health problems for years.
Pro wrestlers die prematurely so often that it hardly raises an eyebrow anymore. There’s a website called Wrestlersdeaths.com — “an archive and tribute to dead wrestlers.” It tracks the departed. There are more than 200 pro wrestlers who have died, all but about 40 of them in the 2000s. And this is just the “more well-known wrestlers.” The website notes that there is a more complete list that consists of more than 2,000 wrestlers.
Pro wrestling is a laboratory for the effects of steroids, unfortunately; it is no secret that it’s a culture of performance-enhancing drugs, especially human growth hormone and anabolic steroids, which of course facilitate the development of lean muscle mass and aid recovery from hard workouts and injuries.
Hulk Hogan, Lex Luger, Ultimate Warrior (now dead), The Rock, William Regal and others have all discussed steroid use in their profession and their own experiences with the drugs. Ultimate Warrior, who was reported to be a heavy steroid user and stated in a federal trial that 85% to 90% of wrestlers in the WWE took steroids, once said, “The bottom line is there are differences between use and abuse — and it’s obvious that many guys crossed the line.” Ultimate Warrior (James Hellwig), one of the sport’s most famous performers, dropped dead in a parking lot. He was 54.
But back to those 200-plus “well-known wrestlers” who have died: 90 died before the age of 40; 35 died before the age of 50; 16 died by suicide; 19 by drug overdose; 57 by heart disease; 30 by unknown causes.
Andre the Giant, dead at 46. Axl Rotten, dead at 44. Chyna, dead at 46. Curt Hennig — aka Mr. Perfect — dead at 44. Eddie Guerrero, dead at 38. Chris Benoit, dead at 40. Raymond Ray Traylor, dead at 41. Owen Hart, dead at 34. Kerry Von Erich, dead at 33. Rick Rude, dead at 40. And on and on it goes.
Ten pro wrestlers died in 2021 according to TheSportster, five of them between the ages of 39 and 62. Fourteen died in 2020.
Noting the passing of another pro wrestler last week, a friend wrote to me recently, “Wrestling is fake, but this guy’s life wasn’t fake.”
Steroid use is also common in the world of bodybuilding. One website — Play Crazy Game — listed 10 famous bodybuilders who had died young — average age: 37. Only four were over the age of 39.
Steroids damaged Major League Baseball irreparably. It would be naive to think that the NFL is not bathing in steroids, despite the league’s claim of an effective testing program and the relative few who are caught. If baseball players are using them, why wouldn’t football players be using them?
Baseball player Ken Caminiti, the former Most Valuable Player in the National League who admitted steroid use, died of an apparent heart attack at age 41.
NFL great Lyle Alzado died at 43. Three months after he was diagnosed with brain cancer, he admitted in a Sports Illustrated interview that he had used steroids for years after previously denying it. He died 10 months later.
Florence Griffith-Joyner, the sprinter who took the 1988 Olympics by storm, set records that were off the charts late in her career after making dramatic gains in muscle mass. Her records remain unchallenged. She died of a seizure at 38.
Kids don’t see that side of sport. They see only the medal ceremonies and the touchdowns and the muscled physiques. The U.S. Department of Justice and DEA reported that more than a half-million eighth- and 10th-grade students are taking anabolic steroids
The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine reported that 11% of teens reported using synthetic human growth hormone.
Researcher Charles Yesalis and sports psychologist Michael S. Bahrke wrote, “Most studies report that 3%-12% of adolescent males admit to using (anabolic steroids) at some time during their life. Among adolescent females, studies find that 1%-2% report having used steroids.”
The boys risk side effects ranging from baldness, development of breasts, loss of testicular function, stunted growth, an increase in cholesterol, mood swings, increased hostility, aggressive behavior, not to mention heart problems and other issues already mentioned that can shorten a life.
There are those who accept the risks. The irony is that the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine reported, “… it appears PEDs may not produce significant gains over those undergoing natural puberty utilizing evidence-based nutrition and physical training regimens.”
Think about all of the above, kids, the next time you wonder if you should dive into the world of PEDs.