CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwire - Mar 27, 2013) - With new energy and determination, Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus is kicking off a seventh year of encouraging teens to "Play Clean" instead of using performance-enhancing drugs.
To Butkus, that means to "train hard, eat well, and play smart. There are no shortcuts."
Frustrated that 400,000 teens say they are experimenting with steroids, a number that hasn't decreased in several years, Butkus believes it's time to redouble educational efforts among the nation's 11 million junior high and high school athletes.
Butkus applauds the efforts of professional sports leagues to toughen their standards and screenings for performance-enhancing drugs including human growth hormone. However, he underscored the importance of educating impressionable young athletes, about 4-in-5 who claim they have not received a briefing about steroids.
"Until we get better at educating teens on alternatives to steroids, we'll continue to have steroid problems in professional sports," said Butkus, who said steroids weren't around in his playing days. He was alerted to the steroid problem while filming a reality show involving high school athletes, and when a cardiologist friend documented the heart-ruining impact of steroid use among bodybuilders.
"Teens catch on quickly. They don't want all the consequences of steroids, like bad breath, skin lesions, mood swings and physical changes, like tiny testicles and breast growth among boys, or hair growth and lower voices among girls. Plus, they don't want all their hard work to be discounted with an asterisk in the record books, or to become known as a cheater for the rest of their life."
Butkus said parents and coaches need to hear the same message.
"You wouldn't believe the stories I hear every day. It's time to get smart about basic training and forming good habits that can last a lifetime."
With support from the NFL and NFL Players Association Research and Education Foundation, and with private and corporate support, Butkus expects to spread the word at many events:
- June - Red Grange 7-on-7 high school football tournament hosted by the online sports promoter IHigh at Wheaton College.
- July - The 50th Anniversary Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, Ohio.
- August - Chicago Bears Fan Appreciation Week, where Butkus and professional sports franchises will host a Chicago Sports Legacy event to honor volunteer youth sports leaders and coaches while also delivering the I Play Clean message to more teens through workshops and invitational events.
- September - A University of Illinois alumni and friends special event in Chicago.
- November - A series of events in Portland, Ore.
- February 2014 - A Butkus Foundation executive partners event hosted by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison at his Porcupine Creek estate and golf course.
Butkus held an event in Fort Wayne, Ind., and spoke on steroid education and screenings before a Congressional oversight committee in December 2012. Playing Clean was a central theme in the nationally telecast Butkus Award® special that aired in January.
The Butkus Foundation encourages adult health screenings and lifestyle modifications through the Butkus Center for Cardiovascular Wellness. A heart and vascular clinic was renamed in Butkus' honor at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County, Calif. That center recently hosted a screening for the NFL Player Care Foundation for more than 100 NFL alumni.
"The organizers told us that event saved lives," Butkus said. "That's why we do what we do."
The Butkus Foundation also presents the Butkus Award® to football linebackers at three levels of play. The Butkus Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit organization. More information is at www.butkusfoundation.org or at www.facebook.com/51.butkus.