WASHINGTON – Sports Illustrated donated $1 million to a non-profit organization Wednesday for its work to prevent steroid and drug use among high school athletes.
The first annual SI Champion Award was given to Drs. Linn Goldberg and Diane Elliot of the Oregon Health & Science University.
“The magazine has been at the forefront of the steroids issue with more than 10 cover stories on steroids since its first in 1969,” said John Squires,co-chief operating officer of SI owner Time Inc. “This award serves the spirit and the mission of the magazine,and we decided to throw all our weight behind this issue.”
Goldberg and Elliot's ATLAS and ATHENA programs were among 48 programs that applied for the grant. They will be given cash and public service announcements in the magazine,with the hope of initiating a national network of SI Schools to spread awareness about steroids.
“When Diane and I first began our research in 1987,we felt like explorers without a map,” Goldberg said. “National drug surveys did not include steroids – it was a silent problem. Then we remembered the words of Yogi Berra,‘You have to be careful if you don't know where you're going,because you might not get there.'”
After starting ATLAS at a Portland,Ore.,high school in 1993,Goldberg and Eliot realized that they needed to design separate programs for boys (ATLAS) and girls (ATHENA) to coincide with the different reasons each uses performance-enhancing and body-shaping drugs.
Both programs use 45-minute,student-led sessions to teach about risks associated with steroid and drug use. More than 60 U.S. high schools use the programs.
On hand to speak at the ceremony were Sens. John McCain,R-Ariz.; Joseph R. Biden Jr.,D-Del.; and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III,R-Va.,all of whom were instrumental in the hearings held by Congress last March to confront the steroid problems in professional sports.
McCain,who sponsored the Clean Sports Act of 2005,said that testimony by parents whose children committed suicide due to steroids grabbed the attention of Congress more than the Major League Baseball players who gained most of the media attention during the hearings.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2003 report,nearly 850,000 high school athletes admitted using steroids,one in every 45 athletes,almost triple the numbers from 1993.
Biden said some members of Congress hoped to spend more than $350 million for steroid prevention programs over the past two years,but the money was not approved.
He applauded the efforts of Sports Illustrated and said he foresees $15 million of federal money going to ATHENS and ATHENA this year. But he said there is still a long way to go in the battle against steroids,a battle he takes personally.
“What about the notion that we've always talked about: that a motivated,coordinated,dedicated athlete can dream of playing any sport any time,” he said. “As a 155-pound halfback … I actually believed like thousands of kids that if I just worked hard enough that this was merit – I could do it. And the bastards cheated,they used enhancing drugs.
“This is about honor … not just about health.”