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Side Effects of Steroids Recounted : Williams Says Drugs Made Her Feel ‘Less Than Human’

Times Staff Writer

Diane Williams, one of the first Olympic athletes to publicly confess steroid use, said Monday that she experienced serious side effects and felt “less than a human being” during the period of her drug use.

Williams, a two-time Olympian, revealed in a taped ABC-TV interview Sunday that she used drugs for two years before the 1984 Olympic Games.

Monday, in an interview with The Times from Seville, Spain, where she was to compete in an indoor meet, Williams told of being given pills in an unmarked bottle by her coach, Chuck DeBus of Santa Monica. He told her to take them, she said. DeBus has denied the allegation.

“Chuck DeBus gave me the drugs,” Williams said. “He’d come to practice with a white bottle, with no label. There would be 50 to 100 pills inside.”

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Williams said she was taking two oral anabolic steroids--Dianabol, a powerful muscle builder, and Anavar, a drug preferred by female athletes because it is believed to cause fewer side effects.

However, Williams says she experienced severe side effects from her drug use, from January, 1982, to March, 1984.

“The before and after was significant,” Williams said. “I had many physical changes. Of course, my muscles really grew. I got a lot bigger. I think some people knew I was taking steroids because of the way my body was changing.

“But I also experienced hair growth. I had a mustache and beard. I had hair growing in different areas. There were some internal (gynecological) problems.

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“Some athletes get acne when they take steroids, I got psoriasis. My skin was scaly and peeling. I got wrinkles. I felt like I was aging fast.”

Williams said it took her 2 1/2 years to recover physically from her drug use.

DeBus, in denying involvement with Williams’ use of steroids, had said Sunday: “I am vehemently against the use of all banned substances. . . . All I can say is that what Diane said is a complete falsehood.”

Williams also gave details of the circumstances that led to her making the U.S. Olympic team in 1984, then being shunned by team members and coaches, and of the emotional devastation caused by her drug use and the sense of relief she said she feels now that she has begun to tell her story.

“I wanted to do this four years ago,” Williams said of her confession. “I was not mentally able to do it. The whole time I was taking drugs, I felt like I was worth nothing. Like I was less than a human being. I believe in my heart that now is the time to get this out of my system so I can get on with my life.”

She said she also tried, briefly, Human Growth Hormone, which is extracted from the pituitary gland of cadavers and used by athletes to promote the growth of muscle tissue. Williams said DeBus advised her to see a physician who would inject her with HGH.

Williams said she went once, in March of 1984, but didn’t go back for three reasons. First, she is afraid of needles. Second, she couldn’t afford the $100-per-shot weekly charge.

The final reason became obvious to her, she said, when she visited the doctor’s office.

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“I went to see him and walked into his waiting room,” Williams said. “I looked around and saw a bunch of athletes I knew. I said, ‘Hey, this isn’t for me.’ ”

Williams was a member of the 1980 and 1984 Olympic teams and had her best season ever in 1987. She won the national championships at 100 meters, placed second at the Pan American Games and was fourth in the World Championships.

In the ABC interview televised Sunday, in which Donna de Varona reported Williams’ accusations, it was also revealed that Williams had failed her first drug test at the 1984 Olympic trials at the Coliseum in July.

The second portion of the test proved inconclusive, however, and, in accordance with United States Olympic Committee rules, Williams was allowed on the Olympic team. She was supposed to run on the 400-meter relay team after qualifying by placing fourth in the 100 meters at the trials.

Williams said that she reported to the training camp at Santa Barbara before the Games but that she received a cold reception from her teammates and the Olympic Coach, Brooks Johnson.

“Brooks knew and everyone knew that I had tested positive,” she said. “I was treated like I had the plague. I was completely humiliated. I just assumed that they didn’t want me on the team. I had no one to help me. I was just out there. It was humiliating.”

She was replaced on the relay team by a 400-meter runner.

Williams said she left the camp and went home to L.A., but could not even watch the Olympics on television.

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“I fled L.A. and went to Europe, where I kicked everyone’s butt that summer,” she said.

Williams said she has been working her way toward this point, where she was able to go public with her story, with the help of her new coach, Pat Connolly. She said that before she taped the interview last Thursday in L.A., she went to Chicago to tell her family about her drug use.

“They had no idea,” she said. “My mother knew because she saw the physical changes. I told them I feel good about what I’m doing. I’ve educated them about this.”

Williams said she didn’t understand until now the control that DeBus had over her.

“It was like brainwashing,” she said. “How could I ever have been brainwashed like that? If someone as normal and intelligent as me could be brainwashed, anyone can.

“I just thank God for helping me. Our sport is in a lot of trouble. We need some role models.”


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