After his son Taylor committed suicide in 2003, Don Hooton discovered the high school baseball player from Plano had been taking anabolic steroids in a misguided effort to improve his performance.
Hooton also learned that parents and students alike weren’t aware of the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs. He started the Taylor Hooton Foundation to start spreading the word: appearance and performance enhancing drugs (APEDs) can be deadly.
“We want to prevent what happened to our son from ever happening to any other family,” Hooton said. “It starts with being educated on the risks and dangers of this drug.”
Hooton spoke at Aubrey High School Monday night. His talk was organized by the Aubrey ISD police and athletic departments.
The purpose of the meeting was to educate and spread awareness of students, parents and coaches about the dangers of APEDs, including dietary supplements.
During his presentation, Hooton highlighted the risks of dietary supplements, anabolic steroids and human growth hormone.
Hooton said studies show between 20-25 percent of bodybuilding products purchased over the counter at health stores are spiked with anabolic steroids.
The American Medical Association is moving to ban energy drinks for anyone under 18 years old, Hooton said.
“There were over 20,000 emergency room visits in 2001 directly related to energy drink usage by kids. In 2012, there were 18 reported deaths,” Hooton said.
Hooton talked about the risks of pre-workout supplements. Risks include cardiovascular damage, increased blood pressure and positive drug tests.
Video testimonials showed athletes talking about their regret for having used anabolic steroids. A mother talked about how her son died because an illegal substance in his supplement caused a heart attack.
Hooton spoke about the dangers of Jack 3D, a pre-workout supplement that caused the death of five soldiers in 2014.
The National Sanitation Foundation’s (NSF) website, www.nsfsport.com, was recommended to athletes as a reference guide to verify legal substances.
Anabolic steroids are defined as various forms of artificial testosterone.
They can be taken in pill form, rubbed on the skin in a cream form or injected by a needle.
Hooton said the main reason young athletes take supplements and steroids isn’t because of the need to participate in sports, but to keep up with the cultural body image stereotypes.
“There was a study where a group of steroid users were asked by a doctor in New York why they started using in the first place and their first two answers were to improve physical appearance and feel better about themselves. Number three on the list was to be better in sports,” Hooton said.
Hooton said high-profile athletes, role models that young athletes look up to, like Maria Sharapova, Alex Rodriguez and Lance Armstrong, all tested positive for using anabolic steroids.
“In every sport, there’s an example for your child to look up to see that drugs helped that athlete to get to the top of their sport,” Hooton said.
Hooton talked about the side effects for males and females who use human growth hormone. For males, the side effects are breast development, a low sperm count and back and face acne. Women experience male patterned baldness, a deeper voice and an increase in testosterone.
Hooton said his two main purposes of the meeting were to raise awareness about the scope of the APED problem and to inform the kids that these drugs are just as dangerous as the well-known ones.
“Very few adults are aware that kids are using these APEDs. The only drugs that are being used more are alcohol and marijuana,” Hooton said.
Hooton said he felt that his message was well received.
“No one went to sleep, so that’s good,” Hooton said. “The non-verbal feedback was all positive, I thought it was a really good group. My favorite group to talk to and the ones that absorb it the best are the moms. There were a lot of moms here tonight and they were tuned in.”
After Hooton’s presentation, AISD’s chief of police, Scott Collins, presented a slideshow showing the different kinds of drugs high school students across America experiment with.
“The Aubrey ISD, along with the Aubrey Police Department, have a prevention model in place where every quarter we’re doing something prevention-wise to make sure we don’t have a drug problem in our schools,” Collins said. “We care about what happens in our schools.”
Collins said he’s fortunate to have a good relationship with the students and they would come to him if any problem occurred.
“They know they can call me,” Collins said. “I like having a rapport with our kids. I want them to be able to come into my office and tell me things that they need help with and we’re here as a police department to take care of their needs.”
For more information about the Taylor Hooton Foundation, log on to taylorhooton.org.