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July 09, 2004

Cheerleaders, Linebackers And Running Backs Turn To Steroids For Strength

FROM THE ACADEMY OF THE WILD BLUE YONDER comes unsettling news of steroid arrests involving two football players on the Air Force Academy team.

Commonly thought to be associated exclusively with gazillionaire pro athletes, steroids have undisputedly become more widespread at college and high school levels.

The Air Force Academy arrest comes on the heels of last week’s arrest of a Dartmouth College student-athlete for steroid trafficking. First: the Ivy League; now: one of our nation’s elite military academies; next: Duke? Stanford? A bible college maybe?

Facing up to 25 years in prison and court-martials are running back Matthew Ward and linebacker Overton Spence Jr., both juniors and slated to be starters next year. They are charged with use and possession of the steroid methandrostenolone.

In a rather curious twist, one of the other two non-students arrested is a cheerleader named Jonathan Belkowitz.

Typical steroid users are athletes participating in football, basketball, baseball, track, weightlifting, and so on. But this appears to be the first steroid arrest of national renown involving a cheerleader.

Capt. Chris Backus, Air Force cheerleading coach, estimated Belkowitz to be 5-foot-6 and 190 pounds. He said Belkowitz arrived at the academy already pretty well-built, and that in two years Backus never noticed any significant changes in Belkowitz’s physical stature.

Coach Backus acknowledged that there might be a temptation for some male cheerleaders to seek out the strength-building benefits of steroids. He said, “Guys are throwing girls anywhere from 100 to 130 pounds 5-to-7½ feet in the air, straight up.”

Meanwhile, Andrea Wickerham of the National Center for Drug Free Sports, points out that one problem is the increased availability of over-the-counter dietary substances. The Food and Drug Administration cannot ban a substance from being sold unless it is proven to be harmful.

“What’s on the shelf at your local GNC store is not regulated by the FDA,” Wickerham said.

Faster, higher, stronger.

(this 315 excerpt--with accompanying commentary--was extracted from a 547 word article in the Denver Post of 7-6-04, a 603 word article from the Colorado Springs Gazette of 7-8-03, a 215 word article from The Chronicle of Higher Education of 7-7-04 and a 332 word article from the Associated Press of 7-6-04)