Officials from Sports Illustrated announced last week that the magazine will join forces with two Oregon-based programs that discourage steroid and drug use by adolescent males and promote healthier lifestyles among young women.
As part of the partnership, which was announced here Feb. 8 at the National Press Club, Sports Illustrated awarded the Oregon Health and Science University a grant and space for public-service announcements in the magazine, worth $1 million.
The award will help the Portland, Ore., university promote the programs Athletes Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids, or ATLAS, and Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Alternatives, or ATHENA.
A new Web site called SI Schools will also be created as part of the partnership and will feature information on exercise and drug-abuse prevention, officials from the magazine added.
“This is a critical issue that we absolutely must address,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who was on hand to endorse the effort. “Real competitiveness starts with education. Students are unlikely to be successful in that endeavor if they’re not healthy.”
Based on recent information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 500,000 and 850,000 high school students have admitted using steroids. From 1993 to 2003, the proportion of students who reported having used steroids increased from 1 in 45 to 1 in 16, according to the CDC.
Anabolic steroids can be injected or taken orally and are illegal without a prescription. They can bring rapid muscle growth, but also can damage the heart, kidneys, and liver, and cause other problems.
The ATLAS and ATHENA programs were developed by Dr. Linn Goldberg and Dr. Diane Elliot, both professors of medicine at OHSU, and funded through research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
ATLAS was created in 1993 for boys in middle and high school. The program targets alcohol use, illicit drug use, and the use of anabolic steroids and other sports supplements. Dr. Goldberg said the program has been shown to reduce combined drug and alcohol use by 50 percent, new anabolic-steroid use by 50 percent, and occurrences of drinking and driving by 24 percent.
“People think they can get bigger and stronger faster, be on the first team, get a college scholarship—there’s a lot of money and a lot of opportunity,” he said at the event.
ATHENA, which is aimed at girls in middle and high school, focuses on reducing eating disorders and the use of diet pills, and on promoting good nutrition and exercise. Students who participated in ATHENA showed a significant reduction in the use of marijuana, alcohol, and diet pills one to three years after high school compared to girls not in the program, according to Dr. Goldberg.
The programs are presented to individual school sports teams, and are led by student-athletes and facilitated by coaches. The programs, which organizers say have been used by more than 60 schools across the country, were named “model programs” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
ATLAS is 10 sessions long and ATHENA involves eight, but both have five-session “boosters” in the following years.
Congress included both programs in the Anabolic Steroid Act of 2004, which authorized $15 million a year from 2005 to 2010 for research and education related to steroid-abuse prevention, but the act was never funded.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joseph R. Biden Jr., D- Del., pushed the legislation and attended last week’s announcement.
“We’ve got to actually appropriate the money,” Sen. Biden said. “It’s not just about health. … This is about honor. That’s the purpose of sport.”