Of all the reasons to disapprove of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, one of the most compelling is the concern over the effect they may have on youths in sports. There’s no question that a teenager has no business injecting themselves with powerful steroids or other enhancers that could have unforeseen adverse effects on their still-growing body. In addition, an impatient kid is unlikely to cautiously heed the directions and dosages for use. It’s a dangerous combination.
For 16-year-old high school track athlete Joseph Loudon, it was a fatal one. Loudon died at a high school keg party after a combination of booze and performance enhancing drugs caused him to fatally choke on his own vomit. But Loudon wasn’t juiced up on HGH or steroids - his blood was found to have high levels of the erectile dysfunction drug papaverine.
There’s nothing funny about this. It’s a cautionary tale that shows exactly why the destigmatization of performance enhancing drugs is dangerous. According to the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE:
That led to the natural question: Why was a 16-year-old boy using a drug typically prescribed for impotent middle-aged men?
It’s not known whether Joseph was using the drug recreationally, whether someone slipped it to him in a drink, or whether there is another explanation. Combined, the erectile drug and the alcohol caused Joseph to throw up, and he choked on his vomit, the Contra Costa County coroner found.
Strangely, the article doesn’t address the issue of performance enhancing drugs. Both the authorities and parents quoted sound mystified as to why a teenager’s blood would be chock full of erectile drugs. But last year, the NEW YORK TIMES published a long article about the World Anti-Doping Agency’s tests into the (sports) performance-enhancing potential of drugs like Viagra. You may also remember that Roger Clemens was suspected of popping Viagra in an attempt to gain an edge.
So clearly, this is not a new phenomenon. And while we don’t know why Loudon was popping a similar drug - and perhaps never will - it’s naive to ignore the possible sports angle. And it’s even more naive to think that high-school athletes aren’t affected by the same competitive thirst that drives pro athletes to juice. So while you might think that drugs in pro sports are no big deal, try telling that to the parents of children who died - including, perhaps Joseph Loudon.