Donald Hooton Jr. is disappointed with Alex Rodriguez.
Hooton isn’t disappointed because he’s an ardent Yankees fan, because he was one of the ever-dwindling number of Americans who believed in the purity of our national pastime. Instead, he feels let down because he thought A-Rod was just as committed to keeping kids from using steroids as he is.
In 2003, Donald Hooton Jr.’s brother, Taylor, committed suicide after using anabolic steroids. Taylor was just 17 years old. The next year, Donald Jr.’s father, Donald Sr., started the Taylor Hooton Foundation to try to prevent other young people from using steroids. Until Monday, when Major League Baseball issued a 211-game suspension to the Yankees third baseman for using performance-enhancing drugs, the foundation had only one professional athlete serving as a spokesperson for it, Alex Rodriguez.
A-Rod had started working with the foundation in 2009, after he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003 while he played for the Texas Rangers. Up until Rodriguez’s suspension, the foundation had an excellent relationship with the baseball all-star. “Alex is a great guy,“ Hooton told The Daily Beast. “We had delivered more than 30 programs with Alex, and Alex did everything he said he would.” But then, Rodriguez was suspended for his alleged ties to the Biogenesis medical clinic in Florida, which was allegedly distributing performance-enhancing drugs to a number of baseball players. The foundation, says Hooten, “had to cut ties.”
Rodriguez’s suspension won’t impact the program, which has ties with Major League Baseball. Hooton said that the foundation would continue reaching out to young people about the dangers of anabolic steroids. He cited statistics that “over a million kids admit to using anabolic steroids in middle school and high school.” Hooton said kids don’t necessarily use the drugs to add a couple of miles to a fastball or to bulk up for varsity sports. Others do it simply “to look better and feel better about themselves.”
Despite the disappointment, Hooton had no regrets about the foundation’s partnership with A-Rod. “The main point behind it is when kids do our programs, they receive education, our Hoot’s Chalk program, and they learn about the dangers of not just anabolic steroids but of dietary supplements, too. Because of Alex, we were able to get that in front of many more kids.” The baseball star had “lived up to every word he said he would,” in terms of his efforts on behalf of the foundation.
The hope now is that those kids won’t ignore the message once they’ve discovered the apparent hypocrisy of the messenger.