Of particular concern to Wadler is that teenagers might get the message that steroids help ease the path to a lucrative professional contract.
Researchers say there is some evidence that effects on adults are reversible when steroid use is stopped. But for adolescents, some experts say there is an additional risk that can't be reversed: Stunted growth caused by the premature closure of the growth plates in long bones.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday June 19, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 10 inches; 360 words Type of Material: Correction
Steroids in baseball--Kate Malliarakis' job title was incorrect in a Sports story Friday. She is branch chief on specific drugs in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy office of demand reduction.
Jack Stein, deputy director for the office of science policy at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said annual national surveys of high school students since 1998 have highlighted two alarming trends--a 50% increase in steroid use, and a 10% decline in the perception of risk.
"Why that is ... is not something we can comment on," Stein said.
Top players such as Scott Moore, the Cypress High shortstop who was the eighth player picked June 4 in baseball's draft, and Camarillo High outfielder Delmon Young, widely considered the top junior prospect in the nation, said they are not steroid users nor are they aware of use by teammates or opponents.
But steroids are a raging topic, even on high school fields.
"I think everyone should be putting an asterisk next to the recent records because of steroids," said Ryan Braun, Granada Hills High's shortstop. "Something needs to be done. If they can turn an average player into an All-Star, then I think a lot of players may do steroids."
Said Adam Simon, a UCLA-bound pitcher from La Puente Bishop Amat: "[High school players] see how great a player [Caminiti] was when he was on them. Why wouldn't they be able to perform the way he did if they were on them? They might use him as a model."
That's a concern of many--even the pros.
"I'm trying to put myself in the shoes of a 19-year-old and think, 'If everyone else is doing it and if I want to be a major leaguer, I might have to do it,' " Baltimore Oriole catcher Brook Fordyce said. "If high school kids start doing it, then they're going to think they need to stay on it in college, and they're going to be on it for a long time.
"You put something in your body, you have to be educated. Hopefully, these kids are smart enough to realize they're putting poison in their bodies and giving themselves a chance to get real sick."
Tampa Bay catcher John Flaherty, a representative to the union, was a teammate of Caminiti and Canseco. He found their confessions troubling but is happy it's led to a dialogue."If you're a college kid and hoping to get drafted, unfortunately there's a decision for you," Flaherty said. "If you do this, your chances might be greater. If you don't, your chances might be less. So at a very young age, you're asking them to make a very tough decision. You're not just talking about getting drafted, you're talking about becoming an instant millionaire.... The root of this problem goes deeper, to finances and just getting yourself in the door to play this game."
Dodger first baseman Eric Karros said he's disturbed by the suggestion that steroid use by major leaguers will create a cause-and-effect spike in use by younger athletes.
"If people make decisions based on something they've read or what a sports figure says, if that's solely how they make decisions, then there's obviously a lack of parenting and a lack of a lot of other things," Karros said.
Major league players on their team's 40-man active roster are protected from random drug testing, but minor leaguers are not. Angel minor leaguers are tested twice a year and the club reports positive tests are "less than 1%," with no repeat offenders.
"If you've got nothing to hide, you shouldn't be worried about it," said Angel reliever Lou Pote, who spent 10 seasons in the minors.
Canseco and Caminiti estimated that at least half of major leaguers used steroids. But when The Times questioned a dozen players about steroids during the last week, almost all said those figures were grossly exaggerated.
As for random testing, there were mixed reactions. Six were for it, one was against it and four were undecided. For another, the subject already was taboo. Angel designated hitter Brad Fullmer refused to discuss steroids, saying, "I'm tired of talking about it."
Angel outfielder Garret Anderson is against testing, even though he says he has been unjustly the target of speculation that he used steroids. He was told by a teammate during his career-high 35-homer season in 2000 that an opposing pitcher had asked, "Does he take steroids?"
Anderson said he laughed it off. He weighs 228 pounds, 38 more than he did as a rookie in 1995, but says the weight has come naturally with age.
Said Angel Manager Mike Scioscia: "Garret has a real fluid swing and it's very common for a hitter like that to work his way into power."
Anderson said he's an example of why testing isn't needed. "I don't use [steroids] and my numbers are right there with the best in the game over the last couple of years," he said. "I don't think it's tainting the game."