Lost in the recent furor over Alex Rodriguez’s steroids controversy was his attempt to reach out and make amends, especially among young athletes who have been his biggest fans. While much attention and publicity was given to his admission to taking a banned substance, very little attention was given to an announcement that Rodriguez had joined The Taylor Hooton Foundation, which fights steroid abuse among youth.
Don Hooton formed the foundation in 2004, after his son, Taylor, took his own life as a result of steroid use to improve his baseball skills in high school. After he tried giving up steroids, Taylor went into a deep depression, because his body was no longer producing testosterone. The chemical imbalance led to his suicide. Don now travels the country speaking with youth about the dangers of steroids. After seeing Rodriguez’s interview on ESPN detailing his use of banned substances from 2001 through 2003, Hooton reached out to the Yankees slugger, who was eager to do something good in the middle of all of the negative press.
“I think God has put me now in a position, in a forum, where my voice can be heard. I hope kids will not make the same mistake I made,” Rodriguez said.
In 2001, Rodriguez had just signed the largest contract in baseball history when he joined the Texas Rangers. In several recent interviews, he has now admitted that the pressure to perform up to a level worthy of his contract eventually led him to take banned substances over the course of three seasons. Rodriguez claims he has been “clean” during his time with the Yankees. Sports Illustrated has reported that he tested positive for Primobolan (“Boli”) and testosterone during player drug testing in 2003.
Skeptics as well as many rank-and-file baseball fans may doubt Rodriguez’s sincerity, and wonder if this move is just a way to salvage his damaged reputation. Only time will tell if he is truly committed, but considering the announcement that he is partnering with the Hooton Foundation was not widely promoted by his publicist, perhaps the move was indeed from the heart.
For Don Hooton, this marks the first time a ballplayer who has admitted taking steroids has worked with the Foundation, and he believes Rodriguez is sincere. “He stressed he wants to turn his mistake into something positive by focusing on youth anti-steroid education,” Hooton said. “Since we began talking to him, we have found his sense of regret is genuine and his commitment to help is strong.”
“We are focused on reaching kids. Alex has a unique, extremely important and very real message to bring to young people a message that can literally keep kids away from these drugs and save lives. Alex has admitted his mistake, one of the very few players to do so. We are glad he is stepping up to the plate. Together with him we can have a positive result and get the message out to America’s youth.”
Because of the good works of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, based in Plano, Texas, Don Hooton has delivered his anti-steroid message directly to over 50,000 high school student athletes nationwide. He has testified before Congress and helped establish a high school steroid testing program in Texas.
Sources: Taylor Hooton Foundation, ESPN, Sports Illustrated