Brian Hamilton: Yes, it does matter if they are all dirty
As I flipped through the pages of a recent Sports Illustrated, I was taken aback by the headline of the Tour de France preview story:
“Are they all dirty?”
“Does it matter?”
“Should we care?”
Considering those questions, and the cloud hovering above the sport of cycling, I couldn’t help but come back to the same conclusion over and over, and over again.
And, for the lack of a better word, “Heck yes.”
For those of you who have grown weary of all the talk about doping and steroids in sports, I suggest you take a look at the headline just to the right of the photo of the dapper dude that tops this column. And, if you don’t think performance-enhancing drugs are a problem in prep sports, be sure to follow the story all the way to page B4.
That’s where you’ll read about Don Hooten and his 17-year-old son, Taylor.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard Hooten’s story ” one that would bring any parent to their knees in agony.
From everything I’ve read, Taylor Hooten was your typical talented young athlete.
Like so many other kids across the country, he wanted to make the high school varsity baseball team. To do that, he was told by an unknown source, that he could get stronger faster by using steroids.
He took the advice and the steroids. Though the drugs did the job, helping him to add muscle mass, they were also doing a number on his mind.
The Hootens noticed their sweet son suddenly was having mood swings, including violent outbursts. His parents took him to a psychiatrist, where Taylor eventually spoke of his steroid use.
At one point, as the story goes, Taylor was grounded for stealing. And after he unsuccessfully begged his mother to back off the punishment, he went to his room and hanged himself.
Don Hooten had no idea his kid was doping. He and his wife didn’t put the whole picture together until they had found the steroids and syringes in their son’s room ” after he was gone.
The first time I heard of the Hootens, appropriately enough, was on March 17, 2005, when I tuned in to watch some of baseball’s best sluggers testify about the steroids subject at a Capitol Hill hearing.
It was the very hearing where Mark McGwire didn’t want to talk about the past, where Sammy Sosa suddenly could no longer speak English, where Rafael Palmeiro pointed a finger in the air and proclaimed he’d never used steroids.
And all three then simply shrugged off allegations from Jose Canseco ” the author of “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big” ” by saying congress should first consider the source of such steroid accusations.
Whose credible now?
But while waiting to hear from baseball’s big boppers that day, I heard Don Hooten’s story for the first time as he took center stage before the congressional committee.
“I am sick and tired of having you tell us that you don’t want to be considered role
models,” Hooten said that day. “If you haven’t figured it out yet, let me break the news to you that, whether you like it or not, you are role models!”
What if all the cyclists are doping their blood and all the sluggers are shooting steroids? What if Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds are, in fact, the false idols so many have suggested they are?
What if we simply dismiss doping and steroids with those old adages … “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” or “it’s only cheating if you get caught?”
In an ever-increasingly competitive world of sports, where athletes are chasing dreams of Division I scholarships and million-dollar contracts, those kids are more than ever looking for an edge or a leg up on the competition.
If we simply turn a blind eye to what’s been going on in our sports world, what message are we sending to those kids?
Quite simply ” for those of you so sick and tired of the steroid stories ” that’s why it does matter and why we should care, if they all are, indeed, dirty.
For more information on Don Hooten and the Taylor Hooten Foundation, visit the Web site http://www.taylorhooton.org.
Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. His column appears Saturdays. Contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4240.
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Despite high winds with numerous heat race cancellations on Saturday, the Reno STIHL National Championship Air Races concluded five days of racing on Sunday with the following Gold Championships in six of its seven classes