According to a 1999 National Institute of Drug Abuse survey, steroid use among students is now at its highest point in a decade, with an estimated 479,000 students nationwide, or 2.9 percent, having used the drug by their senior year of high school.
Steroid use has spread like a wildfire to all levels and types of sports. According to espn.com, the size of the black market is as much a mystery as the number of athletes using the drugs. But public health experts say the market is larger -- perhaps far larger -- than the $300 million to $400 million estimate by the U.S. General Accounting Office in 1988, the last time government made an effort to quantify the problem.
While steroids have been used by athletes for at least five decades as a way to gain strength and enhance performance, it was only after Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids at the 1988 Olympics that steroid use became what it remains today: one of the most controversial issues in the history of sports.
Possession is illegal
As much as 80% of the steroids used by athletes are obtained on the black market from doctors, pharmacists, trainers, and coaches, and fellow athletes. While some are produced in the U.S., most are smuggled into this country from Mexico, where, unlike the U.S., steroids are available without a prescription, and are of unknown quality and composition. Distribution or possession of steroids with intent to distribute is a federal offense punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a minimum fine of $1,000.