OHSU programs for teen athletes are national models, reflect Bush's steroid-free sports initiative

02/13/04

ATLAS and ATHENA teach young athletes to choose healthy diet and exercise over drugs

PORTLAND, Ore. -- In his State of the Union address, President Bush urged professional athletes to stop using performance-enhancing steroids as shortcuts to success and asked players and coaches to be better role models for young, impressionable fans. Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine has long been a national leader in adolescent health promotion and drug use prevention, and its programs mirror Bush's plan.

OHSU has created two programs for high school athletes -- ATLAS and ATHENA -- that provide healthy alternatives to steroids, sports supplements, alcohol and other drugs. ATLAS was found to be so effective it was designated as a national model. Both ATLAS and ATHENA were funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health. Schools in more than 20 states currently are implementing them. In addition, Senate Bill 1780, the "Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2003" co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Biden and Orrin Hatch, recommends ATLAS and ATHENA be used as the basis for all anabolic steroid education programs in elementary and secondary schools nationwide.

"We appreciate the president's concern about the health of athletes and are proud that effective programs are available to reduce drug and alcohol use and improve healthy nutrition and exercise behaviors among youth engaged in sports," said Linn Goldberg, M.D., professor of medicine and head of the Division of Health Promotion and Sports Medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine.

OHSU's award-winning program for male adolescent athletes, ATLAS, or Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids, and its female counterpart, ATHENA, or Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Alternatives, are taught by coaches and student leaders who use peer and team influences to promote nutrition and exercise.

"Contrary to popular belief, student-athletes are not protected from health- harming behaviors, including the use of steroids, alcohol and other drugs," explained Goldberg, principal investigator of ATLAS. "By emphasizing the impact of alcohol and other drugs on immediate sport performance rather than potential and abstract long-term complications, our approach appeals to the adolescent's focus on the here and now."

Initiated in 1993 with a five-year National Institute on Drug Abuse grant, ATLAS has proved successful in reducing the use of anabolic steroids, sports supplements, alcohol and other illicit drugs among male adolescent athletes in schools nationwide. Consequently, it has been designated a "Model Program" by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is one of only nine "Exemplary Programs" of the U.S. Department of Education's Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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