CHICAGO (AP) -NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus is upset that steroid use has tainted football and that young athletes are questioning their role models.
``I owe everything to football,'' Butkus said Friday. ``I'm embarrassed that for some other kid, it won't be as pure as when I was able to play.''
The former Chicago Bears linebacker said professional leagues like the NFL should take the responsibility to reach out to high schools and teach students that steroids don't create success.
Butkus spoke to more than 200 students at a Soldier Field rally on Friday, along with former Bears coach Mike Ditka, former Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Munoz and former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim Miller, who was suspended by the NFL in 1999 after he tested positive for drugs.
At the rally, students signed a pledge promising to play sports without taking steroids. The event launched ``I Play Clean,'' a campaign Butkus is undertaking to teach high school students about the risks of using steroids.
Professional sports have drawn scrutiny in recent years as news surfaced about athletes using performance-enhancing drug use. In baseball, last year's Mitchell Report identified 86 players who used steroids.
Butkus said he was partly motivated to organize the campaign by Taylor Hooton, a 16-year-old baseball player from Plano, Texas, who committed suicide in 2003 after using steroids on the recommendation of his coach.
Butkus said students feel pressure to use performance-enhancing drugs, but don't know the consequences.
``A lot of coaches sell the (steroids),'' Butkus said. He said those coaches are selfish and are in need of ``a hell of a guilt-trip,'' which he hopes to give them by spreading information about how steroid use can lead to heart failure, personality changes and suicide.
Miller said he took over-the-counter supplements and now cautions athletes against those supplements, which are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
``You have to be wary,'' Miller said. ``A lot of them aren't labeled properly.''
Adayemi Sosina, a 14-year-old student at Bremen High School in Midlothian, signed the pledge Friday. He said hearing about the harm steroids can cause reminded him that taking drugs isn't the best way for him to achieve his goal of playing college football.
Sosina said if he ever found out his favorite players were using steroids, he'd lose respect for them.
``It would be kind of like fake,'' he said.
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