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DECEMBER 4, 2007

There is a bar in New York City that I enjoy drinking at called “McSorleys Ale House,”which lays claim to being the country’s oldest ale house. It’s a real sawdust on the floor Irish ale house, where you can only buy ale (available in either light or dark hue), and nothing else. No Budwiser, no Zima, no Smirnoff Ice, no Coronas, no mixed drinks, no shots, nothing except light or dark ale, at $2/mug prices which haven’t changed since I first went there almost a decade ago. Actually, nothing about the place has changed since I first went there.

I still see the same drunk guy every time I go, and he always shakes my hand (for an uncomfortably long time), and tells me the same story…that he repeats about a minute later, as he probably doesn’t remember telling it to me just prior. The story never makes sense to anyone who is sober.

In many ways, he reminds me of Don Hooton.

Don Hooton is the guy who runs the Taylor Hooton Foundation (THF), which is named after his son – a 17 year old boy that took his life. As a result of this tragic event, Don Hooton goes around the country telling the same story over and over, like a drunk who can’t remember that he just told the same story to you.

Don’s story is that his son killed himself because he used steroids.

Part of his story includes the fact that his son had also used steroids. But correlation is not causality, and you could just as easily (and incorrectly) blame Taylor’s tragic death on any of a number of other things…anything from pressure at school to his after school snack.

I know, I know…it’s horrible that I would take this attitude towards the tragic passing of Mr. Hooton’s son. But really, I’m not making any kind of comment about the events surrounding his son’s passing. I’m taking issue with the idea that there is no medically documented evidence that there is any connection between suicide and anabolic steroids, and furthermore that even if there was post cycle depression, there had been no active anabolic steroids in Taylor’s body for two months prior to his suicide (according to a report on the THF website) At 17, when he killed himself, his hormone levels had likely returned to completely normal, and only metabolites of nandrolone (not active compound) were still detectable.

Yet we still have Don Hooton testifying in front of Congress. I’d like to say this is despite the fact that his knowledge of anabolic steroids borders on absurdly incorrect, but I’m leaning towards the more probable explanation that it’s actually because of that fact.
Congress listens to Don (and occasionally his wife) as they cry and talk about their son…then Congress amazingly listens to medical and legal professionals…and ignores the latter in deference to the former.

And steroid laws get tighter.

And teen suicide, having nothing to do with steroid use at all, still ranks as the third leading cause of death among young adults.

Instead of amending laws for a couple of crying parents, I have an idea- Just send flowers next time. Don Hooton doesn’t have any real background to be testifying in front of Congress. He has no real grasp of steroids and no reason to be talking to Congress.

Paradoxically he is both highly influential and highly incompetent.

Influential and incompetent is fine for a punk rock bass player- if your name is Sid Vicious- but not for a Congressional testimony.

Among some of the side effects I found listed for signs of steroid abuse on Don Hooton’s website were [with my comments in brackets]

•    Change in style of clothing

[Queer eye for the steroid guy?!]

•    Shaved head that is not common to the individual

[Watch out for head shaving steroid users!]

•    Always having a towel over their back when leaving the shower

[I prefer a robe…]

•    Increased use of mouth wash – prolonged bad breath

[…or “dianabol breath” …as we call it where I’m from…?.]

•    Very irritable – to all who come into contact with

[I’m getting very irritable reading these “signs” of steroid use actually…]

•    Always seeking knowledge about steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.

[Hopefully not from Don Hooton]

Need I mention that their “Doctors Corner” includes one assistant professor and one medical student? Not really a strong medical advisory board, right?

And older versions of their site actually include the old myths that steroids don’t increase athletic performance…

One of their other brilliant moves is to “educate” students with speeches, where they examine the mortality rate of professional bodybuilders and wrestlers-  both groups of known steroid abusers. Alright…while that’s a tempting thing to do, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to use medical studies which examine the average user’s mortality rate, not the mortality rate of the worst abusers of the drugs? Several very large studies have been done over the last 5 years which examine just this fact…and have consistently found very good health and few side effects. But hey, let’s not actually educate anyone Don, let’s just twist the facts and outright lie to prove our point. And what is our point?

The point is that Taylor’s death wasn’t Don’s fault. At least that’s all I can really get out of the site…Don is saying he isn’t at fault for his son’s death- because steroids were.

And honestly, Taylor was 17 years old, and I don’t think his death had anything to do with his parents – or steroids. And I think it’s great that his father has taken up the cause to keep kids off steroids…it’s a cause I not only support, but work towards myself.

But the way to do that isn’t to lie and distort the facts. I spent the better part of a decade working with high school kids, and I can tell you that lying to them (while calling it “educating them”) isn’t the way to keep them off steroids.

Giving kids a degree of respect and really educating them on anabolic steroids is the only way to keep them off of them.

And really, telling the truth about steroids is the only authentic way to honor Taylor Hooton’s memory.

“We owe respect to the living; to the dead we owe only truth.”

Post-Script: My intent with this portion of my Injected column was not to offend or make light of a tragedy. It’s noble e to want to stop teenagers from using anabolic steroids…and it is likewise noble to want to stop teen suicide. But to claim that one, in any way, shape, or form – is related to the other – is just not a position I can support.


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