SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, `THE WAR ON DRUGS'
AND THE ANABOLIC STEROID CONTROL ACT OF 1990:
A STUDY IN AGENDA BUILDING AND POLITICAL TIMING
Though professional football players began using the anabolic steroid
Dianabol as early as the 1960s, only in recent years has the use of steroids in
sport become politicized. In the most basic sense, this study aspires to explain
why. The study examines how Sports Illustrated reported steroid use in athletics
during the 1980s, and it assesses hearings on the Anabolic Steroid Restriction
Act of 1989 and the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 to evaluate the
magazine's role in the policymaking arena. As will be demonstrated, Sports
Illustrated played a substantial role in shaping opinion about the arcane issue
of drugs in sports--an issue with which middle America continues to have only
passing familiarity. Several individuals who testified before the House and
Senate had earlier appeared in the magazine, and several Sports Illustrated
articles appeared in the appendices of the Congressional and Senate hearings.
These hearings, of course, were held at the height of America's "war on drugs,"
when the opportunity to legislate chemical agents of all kinds was perhaps its
In exploring why elected officials legislated anabolic steroids when
they did, several questions should be addressed: (1) What was going on in
government--and politics in general--when the House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Crime and the Senate Committee on the Judiciary heard expert
testimony relating to anabolic steroids? (2) What was happening in popular
culture that may have increased the salience of steroid use as a political
issue? (3) Who stood to gain from the enactment of policy and who stood to lose?
and (4) Why did government wait decades before considering the issue in an
Before addressing these questions and moving to the government
hearings, some scientific background should be offered for readers who are
unfamiliar with performance-enhancing drugs. Anabolic steroids are synthetic
derivatives of the male hormone testosterone, and they contain both androgenic
and anabolic properties; that is, the agents have the capacity to intensify
masculine features and to build lean muscle tissue. The drugs synthesize protein
into muscle at an accelerated rate, thus leading to increases in muscular size
and strength. Steroids also assist in the recuperation of muscle tissue
following intense athletic activity.
While steroids are indicated in the treatment of anemias and severe
catabolism, athletes in contemporary sport have used these drugs as ergogenic
aids to performance. With competition for starting positions and college
scholarships more keen than ever, there is a perception among athletes,
particularly among those in combative sports such as football and wrestling,
that if they don't seek a competitive edge, they will be left behind by those
who do. United States Olympian Carl Lewis has suggested that present-day high
school athletes ask themselves a very basic question: "Do I want to take
steroids and compete or not?" In reality, it isn't just competitive athletes
who use anabolic steroids; adolescent males continue to use the drugs for
cosmetic purposes, hoping newfound increases in muscularity and physical
strength will impress their female peers.
The study begins with a review of Congressional and Senate hearings
and follows with a more detailed analysis of how Sports Illustrated--a magazine
with an average circulation of 5 million--reported the use of steroids in
athletics during the 1980s.
The Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989
On March 23, 1989, the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the
Judiciary House of Representatives heard several experts testify with regard to
the use of performance-enhancing medications in sport. The testimony was in
reference to the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989, a piece of
legislation that came one year after the Subcommittee had amended House
Resolution 5210, the Omnibus Drug Initiative Act of 1988; that amendment
required that the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act provide for felony
penalties for distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute, anabolic
steroids without a prescription. Ultimately adopted as part of the Anti-Drug
Abuse Act of 1988, the amendment became law in November of that year--the year
George Bush won the presidency and vowed to continue America's "war on drugs."
The Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989 appears to have been
triggered by a letter that Pete Stark, a Congressional Representative from
California, received from his constituent Charles Miller, a 78-year-old from San
Leandro. Miller had been offended by a catalog he had received in the mail
encouraging him--and many others--to "Say No to Drugs, Say Yes to Steroids, Come
Direct to Us." The catalog, which came from Tijuana, Mexico, included a price
list for all kinds of steroids, and it led Stark to initiate House Resolution
995, which allowed the United States Postal Service to take a more active role
in controlling the transportation of anabolic steroids. At the hearings, Stark
described H.R. 995 as a "reasonable, and Constitutional, approach to halting the
offensive solicitation of Americans by Mexican-based pharmaceutical firms to
smuggle `drugs' across our borders."
With respect to rhetoric, one can observe some similarity between
Stark's comments on H.R. 995 and drug issues in general; that is, a third-world
country is at the heart of a major smuggling operation, and it is up to American
policymakers to take charge of the situation. In fact, whether policy should
have been enacted at all is still open to debate, for the elimination of
steroids produced by established pharmaceutical firms may have encouraged young
Americans to go in search of the drugs elsewhere--namely through the American
black market, long known for circulating bogus placebos and toxic imitations of
Apart from the justness of H.R. 995, what is of particular interest
to this study is the inclusion of a powerful article from Sports Illustrated in
the hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989. The article,
titled "The Nightmare of Steroids," provided a shocking, first-person account of
steroid use in college football. Tommy Chaikin, who played for the University of
South Carolina, teamed with Sports Illustrated writer Rick Telander to produce
the dramatic report. Figure 1, which displays the article's dominant themes and
phrases, provides an indication of just how compelling the report was.
Presumably, members of the Subcommittee on Crime had read the article
as background before listening to testimony at the 1989 Hearings; as support for
this presumption, Chairman William J. Hughes asked aloud if Chaikin, the
football player who had recounted his "nightmare" experience with steroids, was
present. He was not.
Thus, while the 1989 hearings may not have been triggered by the
Sports Illustrated article, its inclusion does give rise to scholarship in
agenda building. Severin and Tankard have summarized the Watergate research
Lang and Lang, who observed the relationship between the press and public
opinion during the affair and concluded that there were six steps in the agenda
building process. The steps are:
1) The press highlights some events or activities and makes them
2) Different kinds of issues require different kinds and amounts of
news coverage to gain attention.
3) The events and activities in the focus of attention must be
`framed,' or given a field of meanings within which they can be understood.
4) The language used by the media can affect perception of the
importance of an issue.
5) The media link the activities or events that have become the focus
of attention to secondary symbols whose location on the political landscape is
6) Agenda building is accelerated when well-known and credible
individuals begin to speak out on an issue.
As the section on Sports Illustrated and its coverage of steroid use
will demonstrate, the magazine began prominent coverage in the early 1980s and
continued throughout the decade. The titles of several major articles reflect
the manner in which it highlighted and framed the use of steroids by athletes:
"The Steroid Predicament"; "Steroids: A Problem of Huge Dimensions"; "The
Nightmare of Steroids"; "A Peril for Athletes"; "The Loser"; "Hit for a Loss";
"The Death of an Athlete"; "`We Can Clean it Up'"; "`I'm Sick and I'm Scared'";
"A Doctor's Warning Ignored."
The last three titles above were drawn from articles published after
the enactment of the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989 and the Anabolic
Steroid Control Act of 1990. They are included here to demonstrate the power of
Sports Illustrated to build the agenda for sports reporting in United States
newspapers. Figure 2 shows a demonstrable increase in newspaper articles from
1991--when a haggard Lyle Alzado appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and
inside attributed his rare form of brain lymphoma to anabolic steroid use--to
1992. As well, there was an appreciable increase in newspaper coverage from
1988--when the Chaikin article stunned sports fans and social commentators
alike--to 1989. When one takes into account the fact that Congressional
Representatives included in their 1989 hearings a Washington Post article
describing public reaction to the Chaikin article published in Sports
Illustrated, the power of the magazine to have some affect on popular opinion
In the 1980s, Sports Illustrated framed anabolic steroids as a major
threat to young athletes, including terms like "huge dimensions," "nightmare,"
"peril" and "death" in the titles of articles. With respect to step 5 of the
agenda building process, Sports Illustrated linked steroid use to a major
secondary symbol, "the need to protect America's youth." And as the following
paragraphs will discuss, Congressional Representatives followed suit at the 1989
Hearings. Finally, well-known and credible individuals did become involved, and
as the Alzado coverage demonstrates, newspapers increased their reporting
substantially the following year. Sports Illustrated is an institution in
American athletics, and when it reports on controversial events, other
publications tend to follow suit.
With respect to the "war on drugs," Mackey-Kallis and Hahn have
summarized the views of other scholars and political commentators by suggesting
that "American policy debate about drugs, relying on victimage rhetoric, was
more successful at (mis)placing blame for the drug problem than at finding
solutions for it." They continued:
Fighting a `war against drugs' meant getting `tough' and getting
tough meant finding someone to blame and punish for drug use in America.
Although appealing as a rhetorical strategy, guilt-based rhetorics like
victimage are problematic. While simplified solutions may come from them, a
significant result of misplaced blame is that, despite the mis-identification
of the problem, the rhetoric takes on a life of its own, creating victims, a
citizenry immune to the effects of the rhetoric, and a political climate which
may hamper future rhetorical efforts. In the American drug war waged from
1986-1991, the enemies--drug lords, drug pushers, and corrupt or inefficient
politicians--became the scapegoats successfully but inappropriately blamed and
symbolically sacrificed for our guilt regarding drug use and our failure to
stop drug use in America.
The observations of Mackey-Kallis and Hahn, which are central to
several of the propositions advanced in this paper, are consistent with the
contentions of former U.S. drug agent Michael Levine. In the pop-culture book
about Levine's career as an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration,
aptly titled Undercover: The Secret Lives of a Federal Agent, author Donald
Goddard recalled an instance in which Levine spoke to a group of PTA
members. "Dealers don't spread this disease," Levine insisted. "They don't
have to. They let you do that. Once you catch it, you'll go looking for
them...Put one of you straight, concerned citizens in jail for five years for
possessing just one small part of the drugs I know you got out there in your
homes, and I guarantee you 90 percent of the rest of you won't think its worth
While the Goddard book may have been geared toward entertainment and
popular culture and not a toward community of scholars, its content lends
credible support to the observations of Mackey-Kallis and Hahn. Both the
mainstream book and the scholarly journal article relate to this paper in that
anabolic steroids were part of the athletic community long before their use was
"officially" addressed in 1988, when the "war on drugs" went from one
administration to the next.
Charles Yesalis, an established researcher on drug use in athletics
and one of the people who testified before the Subcommittee on Crime in March
1989, explained at the hearings:
The first articles I have seen in the press about anabolic steroids
were in a three-part series in Sports Illustrated in 1969. This is not a new
problem. What has changed since then is that there has been an unfortunate
diffusion of this innovation, as we say in academic jargon, down from the elite
athlete level to the college level, and it has now diffused from the division I
to the division II to the small division III schools, to the junior high
schools, down to the junior high school level.
As discussed, the hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act
of 1989, and the inclusion of anabolic steroids in the comprehensive Anti-Drug
Abuse Act of 1988, came at the height of America's "war on drugs." This was a
period during which American policymakers could reap political benefit by
launching verbal assaults on illicit drug use. As an example, when William J.
Hughes, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime and Congressional Representative
from New Jersey, brought the 1989 hearings to order, he quickly cited a
seemingly arbitrary estimate of one million steroid users in the United States,
25 to 50 percent of whom were "young people."
Richard Baker, a Congressional Representative from Louisiana, said at
the 1989 hearings that he was "worried about the social fabric of our country
and the impact of drugs on our youth," and that "(our youth) believe that if
they get their hands on this stuff they will become successful." Jack
Swagerty, then Assistant Chief Postal Inspector with Criminal Investigations,
said "The distribution of controlled substances and of anabolic steroids poses
an immediate threat to the well-being of our nation's youth." Don Reynolds,
who served as Director of the Drug Testing Committee of the Florida High School
Activities Association, testified that anabolic steroid use could trigger "very
harmful long range effects, both physical and psychological, on our young
athletes," and Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis said steroid users were "setting
a terrible example for kids." Finally, Charles Yesalis said "we have a
significant problem in the school system." Yesalis cited his research
indicating that 6.6 percent of male high school seniors took anabolic steroids,
and of those 6.6 percent, 40 percent were hardcore users.
Thus, "the need to protect America's youth"--a major theme of the
entire "war on drugs"--appears to have been a driving force behind the Anabolic
Steroid Restriction Act of 1989, just as it had been an underlying theme in
Sports Illustrated's reporting of steroids in sport. And while one magazine
could hardly be credited with driving the legislative agenda, its presence in
the hearings for H.R. 995 is apparent. The magazine played a role in the next
set of hearings as well.
From the House to the Senate
Shortly after the March 23, 1989 hearings in House of
Representatives, the United States Senate began to hear testimony in separate
hearings titled "Steroids in Amateur and Professional Sports--The Medical and
Social Costs of Steroids Abuse." The Senate hearings took place before the
Committee on the Judiciary on April 3 and May 9 and focused largely on college
and professional football. In his opening remarks, Chairman Joseph Biden
spoke of the effects of steroids on adolescents, suggesting that "young people
represent an especially vulnerable target and an especially valuable market for
what has become an everyday business of peddling black market steroids."
Biden made reference to the $2.8 billion anti-drug legislation that had just
passed, and he also estimated that black-market steroid distribution had become
an industry with revenues between $300 and $400 million.
The first panel of athletes who testified at the hearings included
Evelyn Ashford, Diane Williams and Pat Connally, each an accomplished track
athlete. They spoke of the pervasive use of steroids in track & field, and
Williams recounted the side effects that she had experienced while using
steroids, substances that she knew very little about but was encouraged to take
for their performance-enhancing effects. Among the adverse effects she
experienced were clitoral enlargement ("to embarrassing proportions"), intense
itching, depression, vaginal bleeding and lower abdominal pain. Ashford said she
felt "despair" over athletics, for athletes had lost their sense of pride in
competing naturally (this was less than a year after Canadian sprinter Ben
Johnson was stripped of his Olympic gold medal for testing positive for
steroids). "We have got a serious problem," Ashford contended, and Connally
had earlier observed that "allowing the athletic congress to investigate this
problem and its coaches is like asking Dracula to protect the blood bank."
Biden had mentioned how difficult it was to get college and professional coaches
to testify at the hearings, thus lending support to Conally's observation.
The second panel consisted of the following individuals: Pat Croce,
conditioning trainer for the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers; Mike Schmidt, third
baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies; Mike Quick, captain of the Philadelphia
Eagles; Otho Davis, trainer for the Eagles; and Dorothy Baker, a member of the
Executive Board of the United States Olympic Committee. Baker addressed media
coverage of steroid use after Croce discussed the problems steroids pose for
adolescents: "With regard to the general population, especially high school and
college-age individuals, the use of anabolic steroids in males interested in
looking good, not just performing better, but looking good, is as prevalent as
the condition of anorexia in females. Body beautiful is "in" and steroids are a
quick and effective means of obtaining a larger, leaner look." Again, the
American youth is at the heart of discussion.
For purposes of this research, the most pertinent testimony came from
Dorothy Baker, who explained: "A letter to the editor in the December 5 (1988)
Sports Illustrated magazine in response to the Tommy Chaikin article prompted me
to write Governor Castle to start the ball rolling on legislation in Delaware to
make it a felony in the state of Delaware for physicians to prescribe anabolic
steroids for the purpose of athletic enhancement."
Baker's testimony is central to this study, for it demonstrates the
power of Sports Illustrated to affect people in policymaking positions. At the
time, middle America and mainstream journalists knew little about anabolic
steroids, and it appears that if any publication was going to report extensively
on such an arcane issue, it would be the quintessential sports magazine. It did
report the issue--in a very dramatic fashion--and the people who served as news
sources for the magazine also provided testimony to members of the United States
Senate and House of Representatives.
One of those news sources was Charles Yesalis, who testified before
the House Subcommittee on Crime and the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
Yesalis testified before the Senate along with Dr. David Katz of the Harvard
Medical School and Duke University School of Medicine, and Dr. Edward Langston,
a representative of the American Medical Association. Yesalis explained that
"the appetite for these drugs has been created by our society based on our
interest in appearance and win at all cost," and Katz discussed his research
demonstrating a strong relationship between steroid use and the development of
psychotic syndromes, some of which include psychotic episodes, depression and
Yesalis, Katz and Langston formed the panel of medical experts for
the April 3, 1989 Senate Hearings, and they offered commentary as to the
research on anabolic steroids--namely, whether the research offered evidence in
support of adding steroids to the existing Controlled Substances Act. Because of
their medical value, Langston contended, anabolic steroids should not have been
included under Schedule I, home to various euphoric drugs with no medical
worth. Yesalis also pointed to the lack of knowledge concerning the
long-term deleterious effects of steroids, and he equated their use to playing
Russian roulette. The observations of Yesalis, Katz and Langston are important
here, for Sports Illustrated's framing of steroids as a "problem of huge
dimensions" runs a bit contrary to what members of the American Medical
Association were willing to concede by 1989. In addition, the magazine also
received periodic rebuttals from members of the sporting community, some of whom
had better credentials to comment on steroid use than most of the writers at
Sports Illustrated. One such rebuttal came in September 1983, one month after
former powerlifter Terry Todd had recounted his adverse experiences with
steroids. Frederick C. Hatfield, Ph.D., then Scientific Editor for Muscle &
Fitness magazine and a competitive powerlifter, wrote the following letter:
Sir: Judging by your coverage of the anabolic steroid issue, one is
forced to conclude that the only point of view that is legitimate is that
steroids are bad, on the ground that they have potentially harmful side effects
and on moral grounds. I do not wish to be an evangelist for the value of
anabolic steroid use in sports, but you must recognize that there is another
side to the story. In fact, as a world-class power-lifter, as well as a trained
sports psychologist, I can tell you flatly that the most prevalent view among
steroid users is that the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Drugs are not inherently evil--misuse and abuse by people give them
that connotation. I believe that drugs have been, are and will continue to be
an important source of man's salvation. I also believe that there can be no
nobler use for drugs than improving man's performance capabilities. Society
demands bigger, faster and stronger athletes. The sacrosanctity of the sports
arena, however, has been a hindrance to meeting this demand. Athletes are
forced into the closet or toward ever more dangerous alternatives when it comes
to doing things that society may frown on. I suggest that educating society at
large, as well as steroid-using athletes, is the most prudent and efficient
means of controlling drug abuse. Legislation and prohibition have never solved
any of society's problems. Instead, they have exacerbated them.
Hatfield's 1983 letter apparently did not affect Sports Illustrated's
coverage of steroid use in athletics, for as the next section of this paper
indicates, the articles published after 1983 were far more dramatic than the one
written by Terry Todd.
On May 9, 1989, about a month after the initial Senate Hearings had
taken place, the Committee on the Judiciary heard testimony from a second series
of professional football coaches and players. The commissioner of the National
Football League, Pete Rozelle, joined NFL Executive Vice President Jay Moyer and
coaches Marty Schottenheimer of the Kansas City Chiefs and Chuck Noll of the
Pittsburgh Steelers in testifying about the use of performance-enhancing drugs
in professional football. And while their testimony had only a modest connection
to the reporting of steroid use by Sports Illustrated, it spoke volumes about
the sociology of sport in the United States. "As is true under our policy on
cocaine and other so-called street drugs," Rozelle explained, "we will not
hesitate to remove those who use steroids from professional football."
Schottenheimer continued: "I am of the opinion that in the National Football
League today there is no evidence that management supports in any way the use of
these anabolic steroids."
But testimony heard during the second session of the May 9 Hearings
told a different story. The next panel included Gene Upshaw, executive director
of the National League Players Association; Bill Fralic, a three-time All-Pro
offensive lineman with the Atlanta Falcons; and Steve Courson, a former
offensive lineman with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Courson
had gained attention in 1985 after disclosing his steroid use to Sports
Illustrated as part of the article "Steroids: A Problem of Huge Dimensions." He
had explained to writer Jill Lieber that he could not have survived in the NFL
without keeping himself on the same "playing field" as his competitors, and that
"Seventy-five percent of the lineman in the NFL are on steroids, and 95% have
probably tried them. The strongest people--the strongest athletes--in the world
are all using steroids...So you've got to get on the drugs if you want to
At the 1989 Hearings, Courson made reference to the 1985 Sports
Illustrated article, and he explained how his revelations had left him
black-balled in the National Football League, thus lending support to the
observations of Fred Hatfield regarding the sacrosanctity of sport; if a problem
arises that might embarrass the institution, issue a series of politically
correct statements and hope the problem will be swept under the carpet.
Fralic, for one, was not about to wield a broom. "I believe steroid
use is rampant among the NFL," he explained, "and that includes my own team. It
is rampant in colleges, and it is rampant in high schools...The emphasis on
winning at all costs is becoming epidemic." Upshaw offered additional
There is the pressure to earn money; there is the pressure to keep a
job; there is pressure to keep ahead of the competition; and there is pressure
to win. Anabolic steroid abuse is an institutional phenomenon in football. By
that, I mean the impetus for steroid use most often has come from the sport's
management, i.e., coaches, owners and others who urge `bigger and stronger is
The testimony of Upshaw, Fralic and Courson bore little resemblance
to the earlier testimony of Rozelle and Schottenheimer, demonstrating how people
on one side of the fence--those who have a vested interest in winning and
preserving the reputation of professional football--view the problem differently
than those who actually play the game. To preserve his job, a coach must win,
and to preserve the sanctity of sport, potential problems and embarrassments
must be marginalized. One cannot help but take note of the monetary issues here,
for the third panel of witnesses--a series of college football coaches--also
told a story contrary to the first. This panel included Joe Paterno, head coach
at Penn State; Bo Schembechler, head coach at Michigan; Harold Raymond, head
coach at Delaware; and Joe Purzycki, head coach at James Madison. The college
coaches were quicker than the professional coaches to acknowledge the
performance edge gained from using steroids, and Purzycki summarized their
observations in powerful manner by suggesting that "We have a massive and
serious problem on all levels of college football."
Thus, out of the 1989 hearings came some emotional testimony from
those on the inside of college and professional football. The entire Sports
Illustrated article, "Steroids: A Problem of Huge Dimensions," was included in
the hearings and presumably was read by members of the Committee on the
Judiciary. In addition, several of the magazine's sources testified at the
hearings, demonstrating that people inside the policymaking arena sometimes must
look to media outlets when highly arcane issues are addressed. The Committee, in
short, had to begin its research somewhere, and because steroid use in sport
was--and still is--a relatively narrow topic, Committee members may have looked
for insight from the world's most prestigious sporting publication.
The Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990
As a result of testimony heard in the two years prior, Congress in
1990 passed legislation that classified steroids as a Schedule III Controlled
Substance. The Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990, or House Resolution
4658, amended "the Controlled Substances Act to provide criminal penalties for
illicit use of anabolic steroids and for coaches and others who endeavor to
persuade or induce athletes to take anabolic steroids, and for other
The Schedule III classification is reserved for drugs whose use may
result in low-to-moderate physical dependence or high psychological dependence.
Possession results in up to one year in prison, and distribution or possession
with intent to distribute results in up to five years for the first offense and
10 years for the second. If the distribution is to a person under 21, the
offender may serve up to 10 years for the first offense and 30 years for the
"It is time to take strong measures against anabolic steroid use,"
remarked Mel Levine, a congressional representative from California. "Steroid
use may be the quiet side of the drug war, but it is an extremely serious side
Leslie Southwick, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil
Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, added that "Now we are seeing the
involvement of more hardened criminals in the wholesale smuggling of foreign
manufactured products into the United States and the domestic clandestine
manufacturing of counterfeit steroid products that pose other health risks."
And Ronald Chesemore, Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs
in the Food and Drug Administration, explained that "Thus far, the steroid
investigations have resulted in the seizure of over $18 million worth of illegal
drugs, $500,000 in cash, numerous cars, guns, computers, and other equipment
associated with the smuggling and illegal sale of anabolic steroids."
Levine, Southwick and Chesemore each made reference to the "war on
drugs" in their comments about anabolic steroids. That steroids are not euphoric
drugs and have legitimate medical value seemingly was discounted in favor of
invoking rhetoric about "cash," "guns," "smuggling," "clandestine
manufacturing," and "hardened criminals"--all terms associated with the "war on
drugs" and a Friday evening broadcast of "Miami Vice."
So at this point one might ask whether the House of Representatives
and the Senate would have legislated anabolic steroids had at least two things
not happened: (1) Had Sports Illustrated not published its series of dramatic
articles about steroid use in athletics, thus helping to build the agenda for
legislation, and (2) Had the "war on drugs" not been initiated in the late
1980s. In 1989 and 1990 legislators had the perfect opportunity to act on behalf
of their constituents and America's youth. The "war on drugs" was at its peak
and many sports fans were exposed to dramatic anecdotal reports about the
adverse effects of anabolic steroids, as presented in Sports Illustrated.
Because the potentially adverse effects of steroids had been exposed,
legislators were not thrust into the precarious position of rocking American
athletics for no apparent reason. The problem had surfaced with Ben Johnson
losing his gold medal and college football players experiencing steroids
psychosis, and the window of opportunity--the "war on drugs"--was wide open.
Sports Illustrated and Drug Use in Athletics during the 1980s
This section reviews several articles published in Sports Illustrated
in the 1980s that dealt with anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing
In August 1983, a former powerlifter named Terry Todd wrote a lengthy
feature article for Sports Illustrated in which he detailed his experiences with
anabolic steroids. Todd provided a brief history of the drugs and explained
how the substances had enhanced his weightlifting ability as a young man. His
account served as the first in a series of Sports Illustrated articles devoted
to the humanistic elements of steroid use.
As an aspiring powerlifter during the 1960s, Todd had intermittently
used the steroid methandrostenolone--trade name Dianabol--to enhance his
performance as a strength athlete. Ciba Pharmaceutical had developed Dianabol in
the late 1950s, and the drug became popular in athletic circles for its powerful
anabolic effects and modest androgenic properties; that is, athletes stood to
synthesize protein into lean muscle mass at an accelerated rate while avoiding
the powerful masculinizing effects of other steroids.
While Todd recounted his turbulations with steroids and the problems
he might have faced had he not ceased use, the more compelling information in
his story involved other athletes. For example, Todd recounted the health
problems encountered by Larry Pacifico, winner of nine consecutive world
powerlifting titles during the 1970s. At 35 years of age, Pacifico had nearly
died from advanced atherosclerosis, a condition attributed to his longtime use
of steroids by he and his physician. Pacifico recounted:
One day in the fall of 1981 I was in the recovery room of a hospital
following elbow surgery, and I had this terrible squeezing in my chest. The
next morning they catherized my arteries, and I learned that two arteries were
approximately 70 percent blocked and one was almost completely closed--99.9
percent. I was immediately scheduled for a triple bypass, but they decided to
try an angioplasty...I'm
convinced my steroid use contributed to my coronary artery disease.
I'm certain of
it, and so is my doctor. I should have realized it was happening,
because every time I went on a cycle of heavy steroid use, I'd develop high
blood pressure and my pulse rate would increase.
The above passage is central to this paper for two reasons: First, it
illustrates the potentially deleterious effects of anabolic steroids; and
second, it illustrates the manner by which an anecdotal report can generate a
potent reference to the adverse effects. Todd suggested that by the early 1980s
athletes in sports such as bodybuilding and powerlifting were absorbing massive
amounts of several types of anabolic steroids. "Exactly how high the levels have
gone," Todd explained, "is a matter of conjecture, but I have both testimony and
published reports indicating that on occasion athletes have taken in less than
two weeks the 6,000 milligrams that I, weighing more than 300 pounds, took in
Two years after Todd addressed steroids from a weightlifter's
perspective, Sports Illustrated staff writer William Oscar Johnson wrote a
lengthy feature about performance-enhancing drugs. His article, titled
"Steroids: A Problem of Huge Dimensions," addressed steroid use among
professional, college and high school athletes. Like other authors, Johnson did
not hesitate in providing a list of the health problems steroids can cause. He
The risks inherent in the administration of steroids include liver
and kidney disorders, hypertension, decreased sperm count, aggressive behavior
and impotence in men, and menstrual irregularities and masculinization in
women. Some of the side effects are believed by medical experts to be
irreversible...There are also psychological side effects from steroid usage.
Steroids are sometimes addictive,
producing a sense of supersized manhood that can only be maintained
through continuing or increasing usage.
While the preceding symptoms have been found in select users of
anabolic steroids, the reality is that many athletes who use moderate dosages do
not experience health problems. Steve Courson, a former linemen in the National
Football League, did not experience problems with steroids while he used them,
and as he explained to Sports Illustrated writer Jill Lieber as part of the
Johnson article, he could not have survived in the NFL without keeping himself
on the same "playing field" as his competitors. Courson explained that football
was his business, and in his view, taking steroids was a means of staying in
business. Had he not taken them, he most certainly would have been left behind
by the athletes who did. He later echoed those sentiments when he testified
before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
Courson's revelations concerning the pervasive use of steroids in the
National Football League won him few friends, and when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
released him after his disclosures to Sports Illustrated, not a single team
expressed interest in the Pro Bowl lineman. Rampant drug use in the NFL had been
disclosed to journalists at a prominent athletic magazine, and the journalists
had then conveyed that information to millions of readers worldwide. Johnson set
the stage by reviewing the potential health problems associated with anabolic
steroid use, and Courson followed with a dramatic anecdotal report in which he
spoke of his reasons for taking the drugs.
A few years after retiring from the National Football League, the
linemen admitted himself to a hospital after experiencing chest pains. Diagnosed
with advanced cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the muscles of the heart
atrophy over time, Courson appeared to have experienced some of the adverse
effects Johnson listed. Later, in a book titled False Glory, Courson reflected
on his condition and on his decision to come forward about steroid use in the
National Football League. "I had broken the Cardinal rule of athletics: Don't
get caught, and don't tell the truth. I was doubly stupid--I came clean without
having been caught." Thus, consistent with his testimony at the 1989 Senate
hearings, Courson made some powerful observations about the sociology of
American sport; that is, problems and potential embarrassments are to be
marginalized as quickly and efficiently as possible.
At the 1988 Olympics, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson could not escape
embarrassment when he was caught with the drug stanozolol in his system after
winning the gold medal in the 100-meter dash. On the ensuing week's cover,
Sports Illustrated featured a picture of Johnson with the word "Busted" in
bright, bold type. Inside, William Oscar Johnson and Kenny Moore reviewed
the events that led to the sprinter's forced relinquishment of an Olympic gold
medal. Their article, titled "The Loser," painted a bleak picture of Ben Johnson
in addressing the growing problem of drugs in athletics. The authors pointed
out that stanozolol was widely regarded as a dangerous anabolic agent, thought
to cause cancer of the liver. A quote from an American trainer added to the
dramatic coverage: "His eyes were so yellow with his liver working overtime
processing steroids that I said he's either crazy or he's protected with an
In fact, more than 70 cases of peliosis hepatitis--the appearance of
blood-filled cysts in the liver--have been attributed to anabolic steroid
use. By drawing attention to potential health problems in the same article
that recounted one of greatest disgraces in Olympic history, Johnson and Moore
added to the already dramatic coverage of steroid use by Sports Illustrated
during the middle to late 1980s. Shortly thereafter, the magazine featured its
most dramatic story of all.
Tommy Chaikin, a football player at the University of South Carolina,
teamed with Sports Illustrated writer Rick Telander to produce a harrowing story
of steroid use. The article began with the following sentences:
I was sitting in my room at the roost, the athletic dorm at the
University of South Carolina, with the barrel of a loaded .357 Magnum pressed
under my chin. A .357 is a man's gun, and I knew what it would do to me. My
finger twitched on the trigger...I was in bad shape, very bad shape. From the
steroids. It had all come down from the steroids, the crap I'd taken to get big
and strong and aggressive so I
could play this game I love...I felt as though I were sitting next to
my body, watching myself, and yet I was in my body, too. I was trying to get up
the final bit of courage to end it all...
And so began Chaikin's account of his experience with anabolic
steroids. Aptly titled "The Nightmare of Steroids," the article sent shock waves
through the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Interestingly, the
University of South Carolina was the same school that Steve Courson, the lineman
whose experiences with steroids were mentioned earlier, attended following high
school. Both Courson and Chaikin reported a "hands off" atmosphere where the
private lives of athletes were concerned, and both reported that the coaches
tacitly encouraged steroid use by subscribing to an ethic of winning at all
costs. In short, the more violent the players became in a game like football,
the more likely they were to belong to a winning team.
"There were fights all the time in practice," Chaikin noted, "a lot
of them instigated by coaches. They would always let the fights go, too, let the
guys beat the hell out of each other. If you showed a violent nature, regardless
of your athletic ability, it definitely swayed the coaches' opinions in your
Included in the adverse effects of anabolic steroids are increases in
aggression, violent mood swings, and in some instances, a state known as steroid
psychosis. "That's the thing about football--once you whip up anger, you can
twist it, channel it, aim it, just like a water hose," Chaikin continued.
Like Courson, Chaikin explained that he would not have been competitive without
using steroids; in other words, use of the drugs in college football had
proliferated to the point where choosing not to use them posed a significant
threat to earning a starting position. One might posit that steroids did not
offer an advantage to a minority and a disadvantage to a majority; they offered
a disadvantage to a minority and an advantage to the majority. As the Chaikin
article points out, the need for athletes to place themselves on the same
figurative playing field as their opponents was widespread by 1988. The longtime
assertions of medical practitioners--that empirical evidence suggesting
performance enhancement did not exist--seemingly had become moot in the eyes of
athletes. Chaikin explained:
People who say anabolic steroids don't work don't know what they're
talking about. You've got to experience it to know what I mean. Your muscles
swell; they retain water and they just grow. You can work out much harder than
before, and your muscles don't get as sore. You're more motivated in the weight
room and you've got more energy because of the psychological effects of the
Having elucidated the positive, Chaikin moved quickly to the
Besides the muscle growth, there were other things happening to me. I
got real bad acne on my back, my hair started to come out, I was having trouble
sleeping, and my testicles began to shrink--all the side effects you hear
about. But my mind was set. I didn't care about that other stuff. In fact, my
sex drive during the cycles was phenomenal, especially when I was charged up
from all the testosterone I was taking. I also had this strange, edgy
feeling--I could drink all night, sleep two hours and then go work out. In
certain ways I was becoming like an animal.
Ironically, becoming like an animal probably increased the athlete's
chances of finding a starting position on the South Carolina football team.
"Coaches would walk in and see the stuff, but nobody gave a damn," Chaikin
wrote. "One of the coaches came in for a room check once, saw a vial with a
skull and crossbones on the label and said, `I used to use Dianabol
Chaikin also discussed an incident that occurred in a nightclub where
he worked during one of his college summers. On a particular evening, he was
dancing with a young female when a second man, a Marine, bumped into his dance
partner. Chaikin confronted the Marine about the contact and the following
(The Marine) put his beer down and came up hard under my chin with
his hands, and a slice of my tongue about an inch long went flying out of my
mouth. I didn't even notice it. I saw red. I felt an aggression I'd never felt
before. I hit him so hard that he went right to the floor. He was
semiconscious, and I got him into a headlock and started hitting him in the
ribs and kneeing him in the back. I wanted to hurt him real bad. I could
literally feel the hair standing up on the back of my neck, like a wolf or
On an ensuing page, Chaikin continued:
One of my teammates hit a guy in a bar one time, and after the guy
fell to the floor with his jaw collapsed and some teeth knocked out, the player
kicked him in the head. Blood was everywhere. I'd say steroids had something to
do with that...I really feel that under certain conditions some of the guys who
were on steroids would have been perfectly willing to beat someone to
Finally, the most compelling story:
...And when I got drunk, oh brother! One night in my dorm room, I
pulled a shotgun on the pizza delivery boy, threw him down and put the gun in
his face. It was loaded and I could have blown the kid all over the floor, but
I was just fooling around. It was the kind of thing I thought was funny.
As the opening passage of his story indicated, Chaikin began to have
severe anxiety attacks after prolonged use of anabolic steroids. He was on the
verge of suicide on several occasions, and appears to have experienced steroid
psychosis on many more. His story tells of smashing refrigerators with baseball
bats, ripping telephones out of walls, fighting brutally with fellow players and
others outside of football, and of going out for a drive with teammates and
shooting cattle in nearby pastures. Even the most seasoned coaches and athletes
found Chaikin's story horrific, and four months later, a story concerning the
death of a high school football player may have pushed anabolic steroids to an
even higher place on the legislative agenda.
Sports Illustrated published a lengthy feature article about a
small-town football player named Benji Ramirez, an athlete who had taken
steroids to enhance his performance in sport. Ramirez had collapsed at
football practice one afternoon, and after being taken to the Ashtabula (Ohio)
County Medical Center, the 17-year-old senior had expired, the result of an
apparent heart attack. An autopsy later revealed that Ramirez had died of
cardiac arrhythmia, a condition precipitated by a diseased and enlarged heart.
"It is the strong opinion of County Coroner Dr. Robert A. Malinowski that use of
anabolic steroids did in some way contribute to the death of Benjamin Ramirez,"
stated the final autopsy report, as cited in the article. Malinowski did not
establish scientific evidence linking the death to steroid use, yet he did not
hesitate in calling the use a contributing factor.
The article began with a full-color, two-page photograph of Ramirez
in his coffin, football and other memorabilia arranged neatly inside. Pictures
of the high school athlete with his friends were placed throughout the article,
and on the last page, a photograph of the fresh grave reminded readers of the
ultimate finality. A 17-year-old was dead, and medical professionals were
pointing the finger at anabolic steroids.
It appears legislators could not ignore the events that took place
during the middle to late 1980s, nor could they ignore a series of powerful
articles published in Sports Illustrated. By the end of the decade, they had
passed the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989 and the Anabolic Steroid
Control Act of 1990.
With the latter act came more coverage of performance-enhancing drugs
in Sports Illustrated. No article, though, proved as significant as the 1991
account of former professional football player Lyle Alzado, who attributed his
rare form of brain cancer to years of steroid use. Though legislation had
already passed Congress, Alzado's story impacted athletics at all levels.
Scientific evidence did not link Alzado's illness to steroid use, but the
opening paragraph of his story implied otherwise:
I lied. I lied to you. I lied to my family. I lied to a lot of people
for a lot of years when I said I didn't use steroids. I started taking anabolic
steroids in 1969, and I never stopped. Not when I retired from the NFL in 1985.
Not ever. I couldn't, and then I made things worse by using human growth
hormone, too. I had my mind set, and I did what I wanted to do. So many people
tried to talk me out of what I was doing, and I wouldn't listen. And now I'm
sick. I've got cancer--a brain lymphoma-- and I'm in for the fight of my
For purposes of this study, the Alzado article may be as important as
any other, for it illustrates the manner in which a highly reputable magazine
can define a cause-and-effect relationship when science cannot. Robert Huizenga,
Alzado's physician, attributed the lymphoma to steroid use, just as Malinowski
did with the death of Benji Ramirez. But in both cases, a scientific
cause-and-effect relationship could not be established. Thus, while scientists
would not contest the potentially deleterious effects of steroids, they would
raise a number of questions where the deaths of Ramirez and Alzado were
Greenblatt offered a medical perspective prior to Alzado's death:
The extensive recreational use of illegal centrally-acting chemicals
is thought to be increasing, possibly leading to a broadening epidemic of drug
addiction and dependence, impaired performance in the workplace, which
endangers the public safety, and in some cases even leads to deaths directly
attributable to drug abuse...Reliable statistical or epidemiologic verification
of these assumptions is, however, largely lacking, and it is very likely that
the magnitude of the drug abuse problem has been greatly exaggerated by
journalistic excesses focusing particularly on drug abuse by athletes, and the
tragic drug-related deaths of a few young athletes (footnotes eliminated).
Brown and Walsh-Childers explain how "journalistic excesses" can then
affect a change in public policy:
Although the impact of media coverage of drugs on governmental drug
policies may not be explicitly demonstrable, the implications seem obvious: If
public concern about a health issue, which probably increases support for
intervention policies, is itself influenced by media coverage of the health
issue, then greater media attention to the issue probably will tend to increase
policy makers' interest in developing intervention policies.
Two weeks after Alzado's death, U.S. News & World Report devoted its
cover to "Muscle Drugs." Inside, the article made reference to Alzado's
warnings in Sports Illustrated and also included quotes from Steve Courson, the
football player who had come forward about steroid use in the NFL. The article
featured a Sports Illustrated photo of a massive Courson performing biceps
curls, and it also contained quotes from Yesalis. Two questions arise here: (1)
Would U.S. News & World Report have contacted these sources had they not
appeared earlier in Sports Illustrated? (2) Would U.S. News & World Report have
covered the issue at all had a haggard Alzado not gone public in the athletic
magazine? Given the timing, it would be difficult to deny an association. Figure
2 shows a demonstrable increase in mainstream reporting of anabolic steroids
following Alzado's admissions, and Figures 3 and 4 illustrate further how peaks
in magazine coverage were followed by peaks in academic journals. Consistent
with mainstream reporting of performance-enhancing drugs, MEDLINE and PSYCHLIT
hits peaked in 1989, 1990 and 1991. The issue salience of drugs in athletics,
then, appears to have been greatest after Ben Johnson lost his Olympic Gold
medal and Sports Illustrated devoted dramatic coverage to the use of steroids in
college and professional football.
It is important also to consider the political climate of the late
1980s, for some of the hysteria surrounding recreational drug use may have
contributed to the enactment of policy involving anabolic steroids. With a drug
czar appearing regularly on television newscasts and footage of police officers
wrestling crazed drug users to the streets of urban centers, the political
climate seemed ideal for legislation to pass. The issue salience of illicit drug
use had reached its peak, and legislators were thus in a position to effect a
change and not risk political backlash. Parents of young athletes--and the
athletes themselves--had been exposed to highly dramatic material in a reputable
sports magazine, and while the evidence was primarily anecdotal, it nevertheless
indicated the potentially adverse effects of steroid use.
Conclusions and Discussion
This study examined the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989 and
the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 in light of several articles published
in Sports Illustrated during the middle to late 1980s, when politicians declared
"war" on drugs. Though steroids were used as early as the 1960s by professional
football players, their use in athletics did not become politicized until
prominent sports figures began speaking out on the subject and began receiving
sanctions for using the substances. In 1988 alone, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson
was stripped an Olympic gold medal because of a positive steroid test, and
college football player Tommy Chaikin disclosed to Sports Illustrated and the
world the horrors of his experience with steroids and human growth hormone.
Because drug use in athletics is a relatively arcane issue, few
publications independent of the sporting arena have covered it the way Sports
Illustrated has; and in some instances, the best mainstream publications could
do was report the effects of athletes' disclosures to the magazine. While Sports
Illustrated certainly could not be credited for driving the entire legislative
agenda, it had a clear role in the Congressional and Senate hearings; appendices
featured entire articles from the magazine, and several of the individuals who
appeared in Sports Illustrated were invited to testify. Dorothy Baker of the
United States Olympic Committee testified that a letter to the editor in
response to the Chaikin article prompted her to write the governor of Delaware
and request that legislation be passed to make it illegal for physicians to
prescribe anabolic steroids for athletic enhancement.
All of this took place at the height of America's "war on drugs," a
period during which legislators could reap political benefit by going after drug
users and drug sellers. Legislators spoke continuously of the "need to protect
America's youth," and their use of rhetoric appears to have worked; that is,
anabolic steroids were ultimately classified as Schedule III Controlled
Substances under the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990. The fact that many
American youths were sent scrambling for black-market drugs apparently escaped
the attention of law makers, who positioned steroids alongside everything from
angel dust to crack cocaine.
In their purest form, anabolic steroids can cause health problems;
that much has been documented. Yet many who use the drugs in moderate amounts
never experience deleterious effects. Additionally, steroids have proven medical
value in the treatment of breast cancer, anemia and severe catabolism. Just as
marijuana is prescribed for people in severe pain, steroids are prescribed for
people with various health ailments. Perhaps this is why the American Medical
Association refused to recommend a Schedule I classification for anabolic
steroids when legislators would have scheduled the drugs as such without
hesitation. Indeed, there are two sides to every issue, and as the scholars who
have written about America's "war on drugs" point out, a narrow-minded approach
to a widespread problem can result in misplaced blame and convenient rationales
for legislation. Whether steroids should have been legislated is open to debate;
each side of the issue has convincing support, yet each side has its pitfalls.
Drug use in athletics has not gone away, as athletes continue to use steroids
for performance gain. Now, however, they have been forced deeper into the closet
while continuing to give American sports fans what they want to see: Massive
bodies, crushing hits, superhuman strength and brutal intensity. The
win-at-all-costs approach to sport in America is alive and well, and while
legislation made it more difficult for athletes to obtain steroids by walking in
the front door, it seems to have done little to deter them from walking in the
Dominant Themes and Phrases from Tommy Chaikin and Rick Telander,
"The Nightmare of Steroids," Sports Illustrated, October 24, 1988.
Motivation for Using Steroids and Human Growth Hormone
~Observes how well players on steroids perform
~Feels nothing bad can happen at such a young age
~College athletes feel tremendous pressure to succeed--fear sitting on
the bench and being "a failure"
~Sense of worth tied up in game
~Some parents push players extremely hard and expect results
~"Time for me to join the crowd"
~"Beef up and fight back"
~"Just give me what it takes to get big"
General Use of the Drugs
~Steroids easily obtainable
~TC scared because of horror stories and potential side effects:
cancer, liver damage, heart disease, sex problems, etc.
~Some bodybuilders take $10,000 worth of human growth hormone per
cycle--TC "only" gets $800 worth and fears it because of potential to cause
acromegaly, or "Frankenstein's syndrome"
~TC says he would inject self with anything if it would increase size
~TC took anywhere from two to twenty times recommended dosages
~Mixed different drugs together to test effects
~Bottles of steroids lay all over dormitory room with syringes stuck
in walls--coaches happen past and laugh
~TC takes equipoise, a horse steroid, parabolin and halotestin, among
~Says halotestin should be called "Halocaust" because of the
aggression it instills in user
~Teammates call TLC "Quasibloato" and "The Experiment"
~Vicious circle with steroids: Aggression and other changes make
athletes want to get bigger and take more drugs
~"I've begun the chemical warfare"
Performance Effects from Use
~Wins Defensive Player of the Game at height of steroid use
~More motivation in weightwoom
~More energy because of psychological effects
~Muscle swell--goes from 210 to 235 in eight weeks
~500-pound bench press, 650-pound squat
~Becomes lean and quick
~Has good season, anticipates better one with more steroid use
~High blood pressure, heart murmur, angina, sleeping disorder, liver
problems, colitis, rectal bleeding, walking pneumonia, bronchitis, exhaustion,
imbalance, cramping in legs, bad acne on back, hair loss, shrunken
sex drive, frightening aggressiveness, profuse sweating and hot
~Loses control of bladder and bowels one day after class--prays he can
make it to his car
~"Steroids were definitely wrecking my body"
~Feeling of being untouchable when using steroids
~Extreme depression when steroid cycles end
~Can't concentrate in class
~Constant anxiety--images of violence fill mind
~Paranoia and panic
~Pictures crushing people to death, tearing off their limbs
~Becomes "hard ass"--one of meanest players on team
~Rips helmets off of scout-team players
~Admitted to psych ward after holding .357 magnum under chin
~Wanted to commit suicide but feared being considered coward
~Says psychological effects of steroids are most drastic of all
~"Please God, let me make it through one more practice"
~Sells steroids to teammates
~Experiments with cocaine, LSD
~Excessive consumption of alcohol
~Fights with police officers, marine, teammates
~Leads police on chase
~Rips door off hinges after argument with team trainer
~Demolishes refrigerator with baseball bat
~Rips phone off wall
~TC and teammates blast away street signs with guns, shoot windows out
of bus in church parking lot--stray bullet hits cow in head and leaves it
slumped over fence
~TC throws pizza delivery boy to floor and pulls shotgun on him
College Football Experience
~Initially gets pushed all over field--being "light and quick" not
good enough, must be "big and quick"
~Had to suppress humanity to succeed--always hit the guy when he's
~Linemen butt heads until one drops
~"Packer days"--reference to Vince Lombardi and conditioning drills
that seemingly never ended--players drop from exhaustion
~Team physician shoots Xylocaine, a local anaesthetic, into injured
players--no pain during game, agony afterwards
~Never stopped screaming at TC during first season
~No tolerance for injuries--took the attitude "You hurt? Put a little
dirt on it"
~Favor drills that promote fighting
~Instigate fights in practice--let fights go until serious injury
~Respect for violent players--want players as aggressive as possible
~Had ability to draw viciousness out of players--get response by going
after ego and pride
~Only coach against fighting calls players weak for letting 120-degree
heat get to them-- stands in heat wearing black pants, black vinyl windbreaker,
smoking cigarettes despite heart ailment
~Practice drills were a reflection of what coaches couldn't do
~Made players of yesteryear sound like animals, killers--make current
players feel they don't measure up
~See players as commodities because of pressure to win
~Fail to understand needs of 19-year-olds
~Pose as being against steroids
~One tells TC "Do what you have to do, take what you have to take"
~Admire TC for new size and aggressiveness after he does take
~No concern for physical symptoms in TC
~After TC has surgery to remove tumor, coaches take attitude "you're
fine, get your ass out there, boy"
~Upset when TC gets stabbed in bar fight--could be embarrassing for
~Ignore TC when he ultimately quits because of steroid
experiences--want to sweep TC under the proverbial carpet
~Strength coach wanted to help players but knew he couldn't change
~At start, called TC "mild-mannered man from Maryland"
~Aggression levels and intensity "shocking"
~TC admires them for having meanstreaks he didn't have
~TC watches as one player rips the helmet off another and smashes him
in the face with it
~Some players drink before games
~One player takes acid about 300 times
~One player collapses jaw of man in bar, knocks teeth out, kicks in
~TC feels certain that some teammates would beat someone to death
~Collective attitude: "Bury me massive, or don't bury me at all"
~In denial over what happened to TC--convince themselves that steroids
affect him worse
~"Let's go kill somebody"
General Social Commentary
~Athletes are thrill-seekers--taking steroids just another way of
living on the edge
~Part of just-take-a-pill-to-cure-anything society
 For detailed discussion on the science of anabolic steroids, as
well as the use of steroids by athletes in contemporary sport, see Charles
Yesalis, Anabolic Steroids in Sport and Exercise (Champagne, IL: Human Kinetics,
1993); Robert Goldman and Ronald Klantz, Death in the Locker Room II (Chicago:
Elite Sports Medicine, 1992).
 Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the
Judiciary House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, First Session on
H.R. 995, The Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989, March 23, 1989.
 Goldman and Klantz, Death in the Locker Room II.
 Consumer Magazine & Agri-Media Source (Wilmette, IL: SRDS,
 Members of the Subcommittee on Crime included: William J. Hughes,
N.J.; Don Edwards, Calif.; Romano L. Mazzoli, Ky.; Edward F. Feighan, Ohio;
Lawrence J. Smith, Fla.; Rick Boucher, Va.; Bill McCollum, Fla.; Larkin I.
Smith, Miss.; George W. Gekas, Pa.; Michael DeWine, Ohio; Hayden Gregory,
Counsel, Paul McNulty, Minority Counsel; Linda C. Hall, Editor.
 One Hundred First Congress on House Resolution 995, Anabolic
Steroid Restriction Act of 1989, Serial No. 6.
 Hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989, 9.
 Werner J. Severin and James W. Tankard, Communication Theories:
Origins, Methods, and Uses in the Mass Media (NY: Longman, 1992).
 Gladys E. Lang and Kurt Lang, The Battle for Public Opinion: The
President, the Press, and the Polls During Watergate (NY: Columbia University
 Severin and Tankard, 222.
 Terry Todd, "The Steroid Predicament," Sports Illustrated
(August 1, 1983): 62-77; William Oscar Johnson, Steroids: A Problem of Huge
Dimensions," Sports Illustrated (May 13, 1985): 38-61; William Oscar Johnson,
"Hit for a Loss," Sports Illustrated (September 19, 1988): 50-57; Tommy Chaikin
and Rick Telander, "The Nightmare of Steroids," Sports Illustrated (October 24,
1988): 84-102; Rick Telander, "A Peril for Athletes," Sports Illustrated
(October 24, 1988): 114; William Oscar Johnson and Kenny Moore, "The Loser,"
Sports Illustrated (October 3, 1988): 20-26; Rick Telander, "The Death of an
Athlete," Sports Illustrated (February 20, 1989): 68-78; Peter King, "`We Can
Clean It Up,'" Sports Illustrated (July 9, 1990): 34-40; Lyle Alzado, "`I'm Sick
and I'm Scared,'" Sports Illustrated (July 8, 1991): 20-27; Shelley Smith, "A
Doctor's Warning Ignored," Sports Illustrated (July 8, 1991): 22-23.
 See Appendix for duplication of Sports Illustrated cover.
 Sally Jenkins, "Athlete's Steroid Adventure Ended, but Impact
Has Not; Upheaval Lingers at South Carolina, The Washington Post, (March 22,
 Susan Mackey-Kallis and Daniel Hahn, "Who's to Blame for
America's Drug Problem? The Search for Scapegoats in the `War on Drugs,'"
Communication Quarterly 42(1) (1994): 1-20.
 Mackey-Kallis and Hahn, "Who's to Blame for America's Drug
 Donald Goddard, Undercover: The Secret Lives of a Federal Agent
(NY: Times Books, 1988).
 Goddard, Undercover, 284.
 Hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989, 46.
 Hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989, 13.
 Hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989, 35.
 Hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989, 61.
 Hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989, 18.
 Hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989, 46.
 Members of the Committee on the Judiciary for the One Hundred
First Congress included: Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Del. (chairman); Edward M.
Kennedy, Mass.; Howard M. Metzenbaum, Ohio; Dennis DeConcini, Ariz.; Patrick J.
Leahy, Vt.; Howell Heflin, Ala.; Paul Simon, Ill.; Herbert Kohl, Wis.; Strom
Thurmond, S.C.; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Alan K. Simpson, Wyo.; Charles E. Grassley,
Iowa; Arlen Specter, Pa.; Gordon J. Humphrey, N.H.; Mark H. Gitenstein, chief
counsel; Diana Huffman, staff director, Terry L. Wooten, minority chief counsel,
R.J. Duke Short, minority staff director.
 Hearings for Steroids in Amateur and Professional Sports, 3.
 Hearings for Steroids in Amateur and Professional Sports, 20.
 Hearings for Steroids in Amateur and Professional Sports, 9.
 Hearings for Steroids in Amateur and Professional Sports, 29.
 Hearings for Steroids in Amateur and Professional Sports, 35.
 Hearings for Steroids in Amateur and Professional Sports, 46.
 Anabolic steroids are indicated in the treatment of anemias,
hereditary angioedema and breast cancer.
 Frederick Hatfield, "Pan Am Aftermath," Sports Illustrated
(September 26, 1983): 86.
 Hearings for Steroids in Amateur and Professional Sports, 111.
 Hearings for Steroids in Amateur and Professional Sports, 142.
 Johnson, "Steroids: A Problem of Huge Dimensions," 50.
 Hearings for Steroids in Amateur and Professional Sports, 179.
 Hearings for Steroids in Amateur and Professional Sports, 169.
 Hearings for Steroids in Amateur and Professional Sports, 226.
 For more information about this act and its legal ramifications,
see Norma M. Reddig, "Anabolic Steroids: The Price of Pumping Up," The Wayne Law
Review 37 (1991): 1647-1682; and Martin J. Bidwell and David L. Katz, "Injecting
Life into an Old Defense: Anabolic-Steroid Induced Psychosis as a Paradigm of
Involuntary Intoxification," University of Miami Entertainment & Sports Law
Review 7 (1989): 1-63.
 Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on
the Judiciary House of Representatives. One Hundred First Congress, Second
Session on H.R. 4658, Serial No. 90, May 17, 1990.
 Hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990, 2.
 Hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990, 11.
 Hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990, 35.
 Hearings for the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990, 42.
 Terry Todd, "The Steroid Predicament," Sports Illustrated
(August 1, 1983): 62-77.
 Todd, "The Steroid Predicament," 70. As an interesting aside,
Assistant Chief Postal Inspector Jack Swagerty testified at the Hearings for the
Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989 that Pacifico had once appeared on "60
Minutes" to discuss the perils of using anabolic steroids, and the very next day
search warrants were executed by postal inspectors, Customs and FDA agents after
Pacifico received a shipment of anabolic steroids by international mail.
Swagerty also mentioned that Pacifico had been advertising bogus products in
 Todd, 68.
 Johnson, "Steroids: A Problem of Huge Dimensions."
 Johnson, 44.
 Steve Courson and Lee Schreiber, False Glory: The Steve Courson
Story (Stamford, CT: Longmeadow, 1991).
 Johnson and Moore, "The Loser."
 Johnson and Moore, "The Loser."
 Johnson and Moore, "The Loser," 24.
 Yesalis, Anabolic Steroids in Sport and Exercise.
 Chaikin and Telander, "The Nightmare of Steroids," 84.
 Chaikin and Telander, "The Nightmare of Steroids," 87.
 Chaikin and Telander, "The Nightmare of Steroids," 88.
 Chaikin and Telander, "The Nightmare of Steroids," 90.
 Chaikin and Telander, "The Nightmare of Steroids," 90.
 Chaikin and Telander, "The Nightmare of Steroids," 97.
 Chaikin and Telander, "The Nightmare of Steroids," 90.
 Chaikin and Telander, "The Nightmare of Steroids," 92.
 Chaikin and Telander, "The Nightmare of Steroids," 100.
 Telander, "The Death of an Athlete."
 Telander, "The Death of an Athlete," 71.
 Alzado, "`I'm Sick and I'm Scared,'" 21.
 David Greenblatt, "Urine Drug Testing: What Does It Test?" New
England Law Review 23 (1988-89): 651-666.
 Jane Brown and Kim Walsh-Childers, "Effects of Media on Personal
and Public Health." Chapter 13 in Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillman (Eds.) Media
Effects: Advances in Theory and Research (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
 Joannie M. Schrof, "Pumped Up," U.S. News & World Report (June
1, 1992): 54-63.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, THE `WAR ON DRUGS'
AND THE ANABOLIC STEROID CONTROL ACT OF 1990:
A STUDY IN AGENDA BUILDING AND POLITICAL TIMING
School of Journalism
330 Communications Building
University of Tennessee
Knoxville TN 37996-0330
e-mail "[log in to unmask]"
Paper submitted to the 1996 Leslie J. Moeller competition
Mass Communication & Society Division
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
Bryan Denham is a doctoral candidate in journalism at the University