ELGIN, IL -Taylor Hooton was a 6'2" 180 pound junior varsity pitcher like most high school kids, hoping to make the varsity team and earn a college scholarship to continue playing baseball.
At Plano West High School, Hooton's baseball coach gave him one simple request to in order to earn a spot on the varsity roster: put on 20 pounds.
Taylor began taking steroids and from that point on, his life took a horrifying downward spiral. Even after Taylor stopped doping, the withdrawal effects caused him to suffer from depression and one day, Taylor tied two belts together and hung himself.
Taylor Hooton is not alone among high school athletes hoping to play at the next level. Between five and six percent of high school students-which is between 800,000 and one million-students take steroids.
On Thursday afternoon, prior to the Chicago Bandits game against the Washington Glory, Taylor's dad, Don Hooton, along with Steve Smith, gave a presentation to players from both teams, promoting their not-for-profit organization: The Taylor Hooton Foundation, which was founded in February, 2004. The foundation has received funding from Major League Baseball to go out and promote itself.
"From a young person's perspective, what message are we sending?" Don Hooton said. "When they are three and four years old, they find out what is the right way to look. This is the image that is being promoted when your in shape."
The foundation is going around the United States to promote it's cause and prevent current young athletes to falling fatally like Taylor did. Through "Taylor's Law," which Don had passed in Texas, between 10,000 and 25,000 Texas high school students involved in extra curricular activities are randomly tested for steroids every year, which is more than Olympic athletes are tested.
"The reason isn't to put young kids in jail," Don Hooton said. "We want to make a deterrent if [the kids] know that they will lose a scholarship or lose a place on the team."
Other that the obvious reason that steroids are illegal, the drugs that the high school athletes take are not the designer ones that the professional athletes take. A regular dosage of steroids prescribed by the doctor is between five to ten milligrams, but users taking the drugs to increase performance take between 100 mg to 250 mg between six to 12 week cycles. Each cycle costs about 200 to 500 dollars and kids can buy fake prescriptions for 50 to 75 dollars. The anabolic steroids most athletes take cost 1,000 dollars. The problem is that people who sell steroids to young kids get shipments from Mexico, Eastern Europe, and China that are mixed in a dirty, unsanitary basement that resembles more of a Chicago meat packing factory than a hospital.
Don Hooton said that his foundation is still young and having some growing pains, but with the help of Major League Baseball and the National Pro Fastpitch league, he is hoping to raise awareness and end the steroid era today.