Barry Bonds has broken out of his slump, so Hank Aaron's home run record is likely to fall in the next few weeks.  Let's hope Barry's place in history is worth the price the rest of us may have to pay.

While Bonds rewrites the record books, high school athletes inspired by cheating pros are damaging their bodies with steroids, prompting a crackdown in Texas.

On May 28, the Texas state legislature passed a law requiring mandatory steroid testing for high school athletes, and The Washington Post says Texas Governor Rick Perry is almost certain to sign it. 

Civil libertarians decry the violation of privacy, but the law is only on the table because children have to be protected against steroids.  The professional sports leagues have failed to stamp out steroid use, and nobody is effectively countering the message being taught to kids by so many top athletes:  honesty and health take a back seat to winning the game.   

Young athletes continue to use steroids even though many professional athletes are paying a price of legal headaches and tarnished glory.  No one seems to care about Bonds' march into history, according to Sports News.  At one time, Bonds was one of professional sport's brightest stars. “Then came the steroid accusations, backed up by circumstantial evidence more powerful than his swing,” writes Newsday.  

In 2005, former Texas Rangers player Jose Canseco released a book, Juiced, in which he alleged widespread steroid use in major league baseball. Congress decided to hold hearings, but players and unions often refused to cooperate.  Missouri Congressman William Clay asked record-breaking St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire if he had ever used steroids, and the former player demurred: “I'm not going to go into the past or talk about my past.”  Rafael Palmeiro of the Baltimore Orioles told Congress: “Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period.” Ten days later, he failed a steroids test. 


Now McGwire's most famous homer-hitting rival, Sammy Sosa of the Texas Rangers, stands accused of steroid use, and three more Rangers players find themselves under investigation.

Baseball is not the only home of the steroid cheat fest.  Investigators from the U.S. House of Representatives busted three NFL Carolina Panthers in 2005 for shooting up.  In 2004, the NBA banned New Orleans Hornets forward Chris Andersen for two years following a steroid investigation.   

Fighting for their own interests, rather than the public interest, the players and the unions have conspired to stonewall and resist attempts to get the truth.  When former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell tried to start a major probe last year, baseball and basketball players associations distributed a memo telling players to refuse interviews—a court-protected escape hatch going back to 1984.       

Despite the embarrassment suffered by some pros, young athletes are still looking at Bonds and his colleagues and reaching a dangerous conclusion: “Drugs are good. Cheaters win.  Liars get a free walk.”  Thousands of high school athletes are deciding to take the risk.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that six percent of high school athletes in America take steroids.  Nine players on Dallas's Heritage High football team got busted for steroids in March, 2007. 

Steroids do more than just turn sports into a fraud show.  They're also very dangerous.  For young people, the health effects can be devastating.  Side effects include infertility, atrophied testicles, high blood pressure, liver damage, and prostate cancer.  Ceasing use can cause depression and suicide. 

The war against steroids got a face and an advocate in 2003 when 17-year-old Taylor Hooton of Plano, Texas hung himself after taking steroids provided by his coach and later quitting.  Now his dad, Don Hooton, has started the Taylor Hooton Foundation to campaign against young people using steroids.  “Don't tell me it's not a problem,” Hooton says. “My kid just died.” 

Former major league baseball MVP Dale Murphy, who often refers to his clean record, has jumped in to start the iWontCheat Foundation to stop steroid use among young people.  However, the big guys are still teaching the little guys to behave badly, and despite Murphy's efforts, the professional sports world hasn't done a good job of stopping them.  Neither have many coaches and parents. 

Referring to a similar mandatory testing plan under consideration in New Jersey, Deborah Jacobs, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said “This really undercuts the rights and roles of the parent and interferes with family privacy.  It should be up to a family to decide what kind of exams a student should be subjected to.” 

Sadly, the private citizens – pro sports leagues, high school coaches and families – haven't gotten the job done.

When citizens drop the ball, the government will pick it up.  Now the Texas government is stepping into the steroid mess, and Texas athletes are likely to lose a measure of freedom.  They can thank Barry Bonds and his fellow players.

David Niedrauer is an intern at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.