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Marijuana, steroids, and the dark side of high school sports.

Over 8 million high school students play a sport. You or your child might be one of them. As the beginning of April rolls in, stories have come out about recruited athletes in Fremont getting a mystifying offer from their dream school. We’ve interviewed successful high school athletes and some who’ve turned to drugs and steroids to not only learn about success but also the dire repercussions of high school sports in the Bay Area.

Illustrated by Madison Chun

By Catherine Qin, Daniel Gong

 

Steven Lo is a high school senior at Fremont Christian High School that was recruited to CalTech in December of 2022. He began playing basketball at 10 years old. After joining his high school varsity team, he decided he wanted to continue pursuing basketball in college. He was on the varsity team and went on to play in AAU, or club basketball. Gathering footage from his time on the field, Lo would go on to reach out to over 100 coaches at Division III universities and ultimately received only two offers: CalTech and MIT.


To play at the D3 level meant that Lo had to get into the school before he could play. Lo applied for a sports and medicine related major. As a student, he had a very good academic profile. He was ranked #2 in his class and was heavily involved in school, being part of the student body and started his own organization to help underprivileged students to learn science and enter competitions. Athletes do have a leg up in the admissions process, but that isn’t necessarily their sole reason to do sports. Having played basketball both competitively and recreationally, Lo believes playing the sport served as a vital medium of personal growth in teamwork and tenacity. He says, “Definitely [recommend joining high school sports]. You will make memories you will never forget, the experience is so worth your time.”


In college sports, there are three levels, Division 1, 2, and 3. D3 is not the best, however, Steven still had to work hard to get this opportunity. Steven’s story might be a glamorous one; however, some high school athletes have a different story to tell.


Another athlete we interviewed, who wishes to remain anonymous, spoke about his experience using marijuana during his high school sports career. This athlete used marijuana to gain muscle really quickly while also being able to visualize his muscles through hallucinations.


There are pervasive myths about professional athletes caught and disqualified for using cannabis. However, a study published in the National Library of Medicine shows that “there is no direct evidence of performance-enhancing effects in athletes.”


Unlike steroids, marijuana is legal to some extent in California. Some high school athletes get it from older siblings or turn to websites like Craigslist and Instagram. The exposure of students to marijuana is not limited to the student athlete community.


However, there is immense pressure within the activity. For example, high school wrestling is very competitive. During pre-season and before games, there are wrestlers who, in order to get into certain weight classes, run for extended periods of time in hot weather and trash bags to lose water weight. Others take drugs such as cannabis and steroids.


Lo also notes that there is also peer pressure to do steroids, to do “anything that will help you win” among athletes. While he never actively wanted to do steroids, the possibility of using them still lingers.


Some wonder why supervisors and coaches haven’t caught athletes using drugs, but in reality, many “coaches tend to keep silent — even when they suspect steroid abuse in their students — for fear of lawsuits from irate parents.”


Ultimately, for many high school athletes hoping for recognition from a prestigious college or to catch the eyes of recruiters, getting an extra boost may be what it takes to go from the #3 to the #1. Some athletes are just willing to take that risk.




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