Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sports is not the only place for Performance Enhancing Drugs

Written by a former MLB player (Bob Tufts), this message is a wake up call to those who think that performance enhancing drugs are only taken in professional sports. Turns out that many of your own children may be using the same drugs.

I am an ex-pitcher with the SF Giants and KC Royals, 1981-83

To the Editor:

Fraudulent statistics are being generated yearly because of the use of
illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I believe we must crack down on this
criminal activity and guarantee that these statistics remain pure and
honest, so that we can fairly evaluate and compare those who excel in
their fields.

Unfortunately for overexcited sportswriters, fans, and members of
Congress, I am not advocating continued heavy-handed investigations of
Barry Bonds or a thousand other Major League Baseball players, mentioned
by Warren Goldstein ("The Conundrum That Is Barry Bonds," The Chronicle
Review, June 8). Although I am a former pitcher for the San Francisco
Giants and the Kansas City Royals, what I am advocating against is the
unscrupulous and dangerous use by millions of high-school and college
students of Adderall, Ritalin, and other substances that have been proven
to artificially raise test scores and thereby distort the entire
college-admissions process. I am also advocating on behalf of
African-American students who are negatively affected by this crime. This
is a true national health emergency and public-policy nightmare that
warrants federal action, as families are being punished for obeying the

Adderall is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Food and Drug
Administration; that makes it more dangerous than steroids, which are
Schedule III substances. Schedule II drugs include opium, morphine,
cocaine, and OxyContin. According to the FDA's Web site, Adderall has a
high potential for abuse and can cause severe psychic or physical
dependence, even schizophrenia.

A survey of high-school students by the University of Wisconsin estimated
that 14 percent to 25 percent had taken academic enhancers in order to get
better grades and SAT scores. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America
estimated that 10 percent of high-school students had used similar drugs
without a prescription. This means that several million high-school
students may have cheated on their classroom and standardized tests.

The use of these so-called study aids has a disparate impact on
African-American students. Recent government surveys state that there are
approximately 10.5 million white college students and 1.9 million
African-American college students. The National Institute on Drug Abuse
found in 2004 that 4.9 percent of white college students and 1.6 percent
of African-American college students had admitted using stimulants to
study for tests. It can be safely assumed that the high-school numbers are
comparable, and equally biased against African-American teenagers who are
applying to college.

We demonstrate great concern when 100 baseball players test positive for
steroids, but we avert our eyes when millions of teenagers participate in
academic fraud and risk harming their bodies. Our attention and selective
moral indignation is focused solely on athletics, a profession where
minorities are overrepresented. We demand harsh penalties and a
zero-tolerance policy against these athletes to ensure fairness, but we
ignore blatant drug-law violations by millions of upper-class white
children and their ethically challenged parents when the enhancement
effect is intellectual and not physical.

Many elected officials were able to find time to grandstand during
oversight hearings on athletes and steroids. In the process, they did not
deal with far more serious national health issues. Will those on the
Democratic side of the aisle who now control the House Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform find the time to address massive education
fraud and racially discriminatory pharmacology, or will they demur because
it won't draw a media swarm and may damage their fund-raising base?

If the committee were acting in a consistent manner, there would be
hearings regarding Adderall and demands for mandatory drug testing for
students before final exams and all standardized tests. But I will not
hold my breath waiting for the announcement of that event.

Bob Tufts
Forest Hills, N.Y.


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