"I took football on as a job. Football was like a third parent to me. It taught me a lot about life. It molded me into the person that I am."
Darek Dohy said he used steroids because he loved playing football and wanted to continue playing as long as he could.
His initial exposure to steroids, synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone, came as a sophomore at Arcadia High School. They'll make you bigger, faster and stronger teammates told him.
It's true. Steroids stimulate an increase in muscle mass, tissue and protein, but not without some risk, psychological and physical, to the user.
The NCAA, NFL and The Athletics Congress, the governing body of track and field in the United States, have outlawed steroids and conduct tests on athletes. However, the National Federation of State High School Athletic Assn., the California Interscholastic Federation and the Southern Section do not ban or test for steroids.
For a high school athlete, there is little or no risk of detection and punishment. In Orange County, only Edison has a drug testing program and it's performed on a voluntary basis.
Dohy was a good, but not outstanding high school football player. After transferring to Maranatha in Sierra Madre, he earned all-league and honorable mention all-San Gabriel Valley honors as a linebacker.
He had a handful of college scholarship offers, mostly from out-of-state schools. Only 17 when he graduated, Dohy instead chose to play at Citrus College in nearby Glendora.
In the spring of 1986, shortly before graduating from Maranatha, Dohy took steroids for the first time. He didn't jump into it blindly. He discussed taking the drugs with his parents, read as much as he could on the subject and consulted a physician.
He was able to buy steroids from a man at a local gym and also from dealers in Mexico.
"I was working out a lot, I wanted the advantage," said Dohy, 23, a student at San Diego State who no longer plays football.
"I wanted the extra advantage. I ended up going to (Citrus). I figured I could do some steroids and then move on to a (four-year school). I thought I'd have an advantage.
"If I would have kept playing, and it was beneficial for me to keep taking steroids, I would have."
Dohy's use began slowly. But by the summer of 1986 he started on a six-week cycle of Anadrol, an androgenic anabolic steroid banned by the NFL. Later that year, he also began using Anavar, another drug banned by the NFL.
After taking the drugs for six weeks, he would stop for a three- to four-week period, then return to the drugs.
He said he experienced some "pretty good increases" in his muscle mass that summer, but nothing drastic. He figures he gained about 20 pounds, up to 225. Dohy, who was listed at 6 feet, 215 pounds, in the 1986 Citrus media guide, stopped taking the drugs once the season began.
He lost five pounds during the season, dropping his weight to 220.
But after his freshman season, he resumed taking the drugs and saw a dramatic change.
"One day it all came together," Dohy said. "I went, 'Wow.' I was huge."
As a senior at Maranatha, Dohy benched-pressed 225 pounds; by his sophomore season at Citrus he was up to 405. He attributes that improvement to the Anadrol and Anavar.
"The steroids (gave me) the motivation to go on working hard in the weight room," he said.
There were other noteworthy changes.
"You definitely get a 'high,' " he said. "People told me I was arrogant, but never testy. I felt good. I felt confident. I felt healthy."
Once again he stopped taking the drugs when the season began. That year Dohy was a part-time starter at outside linebacker. He also played middle linebacker, but said he eventually lost his starting position because the defense was restructured by the coaching staff.
"They eliminated the position I was playing," Dohy said.
After the season, Dohy failed to receive a scholarship offer and decided to join his girlfriend at San Diego State.
Now 6-1, 195, and off steroids since the fall of 1988, Dohy will graduate in May with a degree in physical education with an emphasis on athletic training. He is considering entering medical school. He works part-time as a bartender and rides his mountain bike for recreation.
Dohy suffers from gynecomastia, an enlargement of the male breast tissue, identified by doctors as one of the many side effects of steroid use.
"I figured I was taking a risk," he said. "Now I'm worried."
Not long ago, a man in his mid-20s asked Dohy for advice on steroids. The man didn't play sports competitively. He wanted to take steroids simply to look better.
"He wanted to do them for fun," said Dohy, who is cautious when giving advice to others. "I just inform them rather than lecture.
"I really don't think there's a place for steroids in sports. If everyone didn't take them then it would be fine. But because the competition is so high, the further you get into the elite levels, the more the inches count. That's where the theory of having an edge begins."
The Steroid Problem
The Warning Signs of Steroid Use:
Drastic change in behavior patterns (aggressive behavior not noted before, unexplained fits of anger, dramatic emotional fluctuations).
Blood in urine.
Pain in the flank, once kidney infection or kidney stone is ruled out.
Odd hair growth (men and women).
Development of breasts in males; change or tender or reddened nipples; small skin growths around or on nipple.
Drastic decrease in fat tissue of female's breast while muscle mass increases just as dramatically.
Exceptional change in voice is normal in boys, but not as normal in postpubescent women.
Upper-right quadrant abdominal pains (check for liver disease first).
Painful urination in males (check for prostatic or bacterial infections).
Testicular atrophy in males.
Absence of menstruation in females.
Cuchinoid half-moon face, where athletes looks as though they have cotton balls in their cheeks, puffing out.
Change in skin color, with yellow tinge of the skin or the whites of
the eyes, which is an early indicator of jaundice.
The obvious: empty drug bottles, syringes and vials; young athletes often leave clues when they want help or guidance.
Source: Richard Sandlin, former powerlifter and steroid consultant, Tuscaloosa, Ala.