Man crusades to save kids from steroids

January 20, 2008 9:05:16 PM PST
Since the Mitchell Report was released last month, the debate over steroids has captured the nation.One Texas family that believes steroids in baseball cost users the ultimate price.

Inside a home in Plano, Texas, little has changed in four and a half year's time in one of the upstairs bedrooms. There is the worn glove, the dirty cleats and number 10's jersey. But the boy who once wore it is no longer here.

"I wish he would have chosen somebody else, but he chose to take Taylor," said Don Hooton, Taylor Hooton's father.

Taylor Hooton was an ambitious, competitive 16-year-old, yearning to not only make the varsity baseball team, but also wanting to be its starting pitcher. One nudge from his coach telling the 6-foot-3, 185 pound teen he needed to get bigger is all his father says it took to change this family forever.

"Taylor did like his buds and made the decision to take a shortcut and began injecting himself with anabolic steroids," said Don.

In just 90 days, Taylor put on 30 pounds of muscle. Along with it came violent mood swings, back acne, bad breath and depression, all the symptoms of a steroid abuser.

Taylor's parents finally caught on. They sent him to a psychiatrist. He eventually admitted to using the drugs and vowed to stop.

"It was about six weeks after that event that he took two belts and hung himself," said Don.

It was two weeks before the start of Taylor's senior year. Don believes his son was in a deep depression as the result of the steroid abuse. His mother was the last one to see Taylor alive.

"He squeezed her hand and went upstairs and hung himself," said Don. "His mom found him later that morning and has never been back upstairs since."

The stairs lead to Taylor's bedroom, but also to Don's office where he now works on his life's mission.

"I fully believe the good Lord is behind this one," he said.

After Taylor's death in 2003, Don started the Taylor Hooton Foundation. Its goal is to educate anyone who will listen about the dangers of steroids.

Along with big names like Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejeda and Andy Pettitte, Don is also mentioned in the Mitchell report. It suggests he go face to face with the players and he knows what he'd say.

"Guys, this isn't just about you as a player," he said. "Right now, tonight, in tens of thousands of bedrooms, we've got 15 to 16-year-old kids injecting themselves with drugs. Why? Because the big guys are doing it. Their idols are doing it."

In all the rhetoric about the Hall of Fame, records, who's juicing, who's not, Don believes everyone has lost sight of the real issue.

"It's about cheating. It's about honor. It's about illegality and it's about the life and health of our kids," he said.

He told Congress so in 2005 during the first round of steroid hearings. He stays in touch with congressional staff and even Major League Baseball's Commissioner Bud Selig. He's optimistic the league and its players will start setting a better example. It won't change what happened in Taylor's bedroom.

"I cannot imagine Taylor's life being lost in vain," said Don.

But it might prevent another family from feeling the same pain.

Don Hooton thinks the league should implement harsher penalties if a player is caught using. He believes players should be suspended for life if they test positive twice for steroids.

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