Father’s crusade against steroid abuse

To Don Hooton, what’s crazy is that a Major League Baseball player was suspended for something called a “performance-enhancing” drug.

“We call it a ‘performance-enhancing drug,’ ” he said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com. “What the hell could be wrong with a performance-enhancing drug?”

Let’s back up 10 years. In 2003, Don Hooton had a 17-year-old son named Taylor. Taylor was a good baseball player from a highly athletic family. Strapping, too — 6-foot-2, 180 pounds. But he sought an edge, and he soon found that edges were affordable and easy to find. After begining to use steroids, Taylor became combustible. Then, he became depressed. Then, he hung himself in his room.

Since then, Don Hooton has operated and been the mouthpiece for the Frisco, Texas-based Taylor Hooton Foundation. The goal of the organization is to eradicate steroid use, specifically focusing on steroid use among young adults.

Hooton believes — and the evidence suggests — his son’s suicide was the result of his experience with drugs commonly referred to as "performance-enhancing."

“You look at the television and you see all the ads on TV now for Testosterone for Dad,” Hooton says. “Well if Dad’s in the bathroom rubbing what, in effect, are steroids — Testosterone — in his armpit to make him feel stronger, what could be that dangerous about me injecting myself with some of this stuff?”

In today’s world, "steroid" isn’t a scary word, either.

“I’ve already heard it twice this morning,” Hooton observed. “It’s something ‘on steroids.’ Whether it’s an advertiser advertising their lawn service — It’ll put your lawn on steroids — or a car company saying it’ll put your engine on steroids. We’re not sending messages to our children that these are dangerous drugs.”

Hooton sees a story like Ryan Braun’s receiving a ton of publicity, and he thinks folks are missing the point. To him, this isn’t about statistical integrity, or a team losing an All-Star player — or even a player’s overall legacy. It’s about the approximately five percent of boys and girls grades 6-12 who admit to using anabolic steroids.

"We’re focused on what literally is a handful or two handfuls of professional athletes," Hooton notes. "In the bigger picture, it’s nothing."

Hooton says kids associate steroids not with things like marijuana, alcohol and cocaine, but with protein powders, creatine shakes and energy drinks. Steroids are drugs of ambition and self-improvement, not partying and recreation.

You can’t tell a 16-year-old kid who just made the varsity that steroids are hurting him any more than you could have told The Beatles they needed to stop doing psychedelic drugs.

And a good part of the reason for that, according to Hooton, is that 85 percent of kids have never had an adult tell them why they shouldn’t take steroids.

He’s testified before Congress about this. Hooton believes kids see an A-list professional athlete like Rodriguez or Braun get loudly accused or busted for using steroids, take a $5 million haircut on a $70 million contract, sit out half a season — and go right on being rich and famous like nothing even happened.

But Hooton could be wrong. Maybe it’s that the trashed reputations of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire illustrated how attitudes about steroid use are changing. If there is any evidence that’s the case — that kids are less likely to use steroids now than they were 10 years ago — Hooton says he hasn’t seen it.

“As a nation, we’re not dealing with this problem,” he said. “We’re not addressing it at the high school and the college level to any significant degree.”

So, sure. In trying to reach high school kids, you go talk to high school kids, and do it as many times as you can. On the other hand, when you’re trying to spread your ideas, it helps for some big names to do the talking in big places.

Hooton had one of these big names scheduled to host for one of his flagship events at Yankee Stadium.

That scheduled host?

Alex Rodriguez.