By John Goralski
Southington police recently arrested a student for possession of steroids at Southington High School and, in the age of technology and tweets, it didn’t take long for the news to spread. Almost immediately questions, rumors, and fears began to surface. Are our kids safe? How big is the problem? How many are affected?
Southington Athletic Director Eric Swallow said that he feels it’s an isolated incident and Southington is ahead of the curve when it comes to handling health concerns with their student-athletes. For years, Southington’s coaches and school officials have been vigilant toward problems with weight gain and loss. Steroids are just one of the many health concerns that are a part of the school’s training.
On the other hand, Swallow said that an incident like this creates a good chance to review our procedures.
“Whenever there is an incident, you have to look at yourself. We’re always trying to do whatever we can to secure and maintain the safety and wellbeing of our student athletes,” he said. “I think my coaching staff and I have a very good line of communication to make sure things are in place.”
Problems with steroids, controlled substances, and performance enhancing drugs aren’t new, and Connecticut is no stranger to these headlines. In 2005, a teacher at Daniel Hand found some Madison students in possession of pills in school, and her investigation led to six student-athletes being charged with steroid possession just one year after the football team won a state title.
Just last year, two men were arrested at a traffic light in West Hartford in what turned out to be the city’s biggest steroid drug bust.
Linda McMahon was specifically named in a federal steroid investigation in 2007-2009, and she ran for senate twice in Connecticut.
“In our society, you don’t have to go too far to see the abuse of performance enhancing drugs,” said Swallow. “As an athletic director, I think you have to have an awareness of this and pay attention. We try to address it through education and our student athlete handbook and coaching manual. Every coach has a parent’s meeting to review the parameters and policies that are in place at Southington High School, and the number one priority is student-athlete safety.”
Swallow said that the school’s punishment for steroid violations is in line with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) handbook. Students found in possession or use are declared ineligible for any activities for at least one school year. In addition, the CIAC declares forfeits for any games or tournaments in which the offending athlete participated while under the influence of a performance enhancing substance and all records will be expunged.
Then there are the criminal issues. In Connecticut steroid possession can result in a jail sentence of up to one year or a fine of up to $1,000. Illegal sale of anabolic steroids is a felony that can lead to a jail term of up to seven years and a fine of up to $25,000.
Regardless of the penalties, steroid use continues to be a problem that persists, and the health issues are even greater for high school athletes. Alex Sabia is a Licensed Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC/L) and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from the University of Connecticut.
As a strength and conditioning coach and one of Southington High School’s athletic trainers, Sabia works with a wide array of students across all disciplines, and he said that the person considering steroid use might not always be the obvious one.
“Unfortunately, steroids are as American as apple pie,” he said. “People think that they need to do steroids to compete in the high school arena, and that’s why I think it’s usually those kids that aren’t the hardcore athletes. They are more likely to use or abuse it because they want to get to that hard-core level. Unfortunately, there’s so much misinformation that’s been given out to young athletes, parents, and adults a bout what steroids, supplements, or any ergogenic aid is. The best