RALEIGH — Young children are using illegal drugs to pump themselves up. A study out of the University of Massachusetts shows more pre-teens are using steroids. What these young athletes don't know is that a little help now could make for a lot of hurt later in life.
They are called anabolic steroids. Although some adult athletes still use them to build muscles and increase strength, they have been banned in most sports. And now, a disturbing new study shows our youngest athletes are using them, boys and girls who aren't even teenagers yet. Sterling Cofield coaches 9 to 12 year olds:
"It's a big desire to win by some people," Cofield explains. "They might encourage that. I certainly would hope not."
Pediatrician Dr. David Horowitz says he's concerned what steroid use says about our competitive society:
"I am really worried about what it means in our society as far as the competitiveness that is going to provoke a kid to feel they need to do that at age 9 or 10 for them to be successful at sports," says Dr. Horowitz.
Not only does it send the wrong message to kids, but doctors say using anabolic steroids now will hurt them later in life.
"In children who aren't done growing yet, what steroids do is close the growing ends of the bones before they would naturally be ready to close," Dr. Horowitz explains. "That would actually make someone shorter."
Dr. Horowitz says anabolic steroids can also cause liver disease, cancer, emotional outbursts and mood swings. On top of the negative side effects, doctors say the simple fact is anabolic steroids do not give children an athletic edge. They hurt a child's chances at a healthy future.
Steroids used to treat asthma patients are legal. It's anabolic steroids that parents need to be on the look out for.