Taylor Hooton had just turned 17 when, in the summer of 2003, he hanged himself. It was a shock to everyone: his family, his friends, his teammates on the Plano West baseball team, where he expected to be a starting pitcher the next season.
There was at least circumstantial evidence that the suicide, and the depression that preceded it, on the anabolic steroids he'd recently stopped using. 'It's a pretty strong case that he was withdrawing from steroids and his suicide was directly related to that,'' Dr. Larry Gibbons, then-director of the Cooper Aerobics Center, told The New York Times at the time. 'This is a kid who was well liked, had a lot good friends, no serious emotional problems. He had a bright future.''
In the wake of his son's death, Donald Hooton established the Taylor Hooton Foundation and has spent the past decade as one of the leaders in the fight against teen steroid use. He famously testified before Congress in 2005, along with Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and others, on the trickle-down effect of steroid use by professional baseball players.
What's happened since? Earlier this month, Hooton provided an update to every single member of Congress and officials with the Obama administration in the form of a letter, the full text of which you can find here:
I am proud to report that Major League Baseball has stepped to the plate. It is now the number one underwriter of youth education in America on the subject of appearance and performance enhancing drugs. With its support, our foundation has educated over a half million people in the US, Canada and Latin America, and we have plans to reach millions more. In addition, they have made it possible for the Partnership for Drug Free America to place countless anti-steroid PSAs on televised baseball games.
MLB now has one of the toughest performance enhancing drug testing and enforcement programs in all of sports.
We are also proud to tell you that the NFL and NFLPA are committed to support our efforts to reach the youth of America with our important education programs.
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But, Hooton wouldn't be writing the letter if everything were peachy keen. He continues:
What has the Federal Government done in the wake of those hearings to help educate the country about this problem? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
After all the grandstanding before the TV cameras that day, our federal government has not instituted any form of education program for our children, and it hasn't invested any time or effort in raising awareness about scope of the problem. As a result, the steroid usage problem by our children has not gotten any better.
He goes on to urge Congress to commission research to get some grasp of the scope of the problem (Hooton cites a study putting the number at 5.9 percent of boys in middle and high school have used performance enhancing drugs), then use a public education campaign and "bully pulpits" to get the word out.
Think about this - if every single Major League and NFL player was using anabolic steroids, we couldn't fill a typical high school football stadium. But, we have enough children using these drugs to fill up either nearly every Major League ballpark in the country. And, from what I've observed, no one is reporting on it and no one in Washington is doing anything about it!