Chicago Tribune Promotes Steroids Hysteria with Poor Fact-Checking

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The Chicago Tribune, the eighth largest newspaper in the United States by circulation, recently published an article claiming that anabolic steroid use had increased dramatically among high school seniors in 2010. The article by Mike Helfgot claimed that anabolic steroid use among male high school seniors increased from 3.4 percent in 2009 to 4.0 percent in 2010. Helfgot even cited the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey on teen drug use as the source for that statistic. Unfortunately, the Monitoring the Future study doesn’t support his fictitious statistic (quoted below):

Steroid use among teens rose in 2010, according to the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future study on teenage drug use.

The survey of approximately 50,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders showed 4 percent of male high school seniors said they used steroids in 2010 — up from 3.4 percent in 2009 and the highest number since 2004.

The Chicago Tribune shamefully failed their journalistic duty to perform fact-checking before publishing the article. The authors of the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study specifically looked at the annual prevalence of anabolic steroid use by 12th graders in 2010. They clearly found that only 1.5% of the respondents reported using steroids in 2010 as published in Table 4-2 of 2011 Monitoring the Future survey.

The true statistics from the Monitoring the Future study can be found here:

Full text Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2011). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2010. Volume I: Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, 734 pp.

Monitoring the Future

About Millard Baker