The sports world is currently inundated with scandal. Dog fighting, a referee betting on games, arrests, suspensions, sanctions and other sordid tales have taken over the spotlight.
And, of course, there's the ongoing saga of the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs.
Baseball stars like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and Rafael Palmeiro turned into controversial figures because of juicing investigations, and other major pro sports like football and basketball aren't immune to the controversy.
Professional wrestling, track, cycling and even golf have also fallen under the dark cloud of suspicion because of steroids. With yet another high-profile star failing a drug test at the Tour de France this week, cycling is getting dangerously close to imploding over the doping scandal.
The big question is, what lessons are young athletes learning from the spotlight on performance-enhancing drugsfi
"The perception in baseball is that a lot of guys are doing it," said Utah County resident Dale Murphy, a former two-time MVP for the Atlanta Braves. "If the perception by the youth is that professional athletes are doing it, we need to fight that."
Murphy, who wrote a book called "The Scouting Report: Youth Athletics" that discusses some of the issues facing youth sports, was brainstorming some ideas with friends when they came up with a proactive idea.
They established the iWon't Cheat Foundation to encourage kids to decide that they are going to do things the right way.
"Our goal is to educate these kids and teach them ways to excel legitimately," Murphy explained. "If steroids aren't the answer, then what isfi Trainers say they can do it correctly (with targeted workouts), whereas the shortcuts (i.e. drugs and questionable supplements) cause nothing but problems."
That's what brought in trainer David Stroshine, founder/owner/director of performance at Academy for Maximum Performance in Provo.
"They had a philosophy and great information on the consequences of steroid use, but they didn't have a solution," Stroshine said. "But there are programs out there that compete and do it the right way.
"The body is an amazing machine, and when you address the individual issues, amazing things can happen."
According to the mission statement on the foundation's Web site, its "No. 1 goal is to have athletes at all levels of competition accept the challenge to compete ethically by committing to live with an attitude of 'iWon't Cheat!'."
To further that end, Stroshine, Murphy and others began making presentations to local high schools. They've already explained their program at Timpview and American Fork and are scheduled for a similar visit to Lehi in early August.
"It's been very positive," Murphy said. "All of the coaches we've talked to have appreciated it and been glad to be involved. We understand that not every kid is having an issue, but if we get the peers of the ones that are to commit to not cheating, it will change the culture."
Caveman football coach Davis Knight said he felt the presentation carried a lot of weight.
"They spent time with the athletes discussing the downside of performance-enhancing drugs," Knight said. "They wanted to counter the negative role models. The material wasn't based on what will happen but more on that it was cheating. It encouraged them to stand up and do it the right way."
Knight said that in his experience, this type of program is needed because kids can be susceptible to those telling them that steroids can help them. Stroshine said that's why it's important for athletes to realize they can get what they want without the aid of steroids.
"These are good programs and we have a lot of confidence in what we do," Stroshine said. "We believe we can compete with anyone in the field to help people achieve their dreams."
Although the main focus of the program started out as a method of keeping kids from using steroids, Murphy said it is branching out into other areas as well.
"It's become about ethics and a philosophy of life," Murphy said. "We talk about not cheating in athletics, in academics, at a job, on the field, and in life. Whenever you try to take shortcuts, you create more problems for yourself. The program is really broadening out."
Murphy, Stroshine and others who work with the program have big ideas about what it could accomplish.
"We want to reach all youth in one way or another, but it's hard to do that one assembly at a time," Murphy said. "We want to have a bigger Internet presence and more sponsorship. This is a message that can't be overdone."
Knight said he endorses the idea of getting that message to youth everywhere.
"As a coach, you should make the time (to have your kids hear this information)," Knight said.
The Utah High School Activities Association wanted to get a copy of the "I won't cheat" booklet in to the hands of every high school athlete, so they worked with Murphy and his partners to find some sponsors so they can distribute 60,000 of the pamphlets in Utah at no cost to the recipients.
The program's reach already goes far beyond Utah, however. Murphy appeared at the Little League Baseball kickoff in Houston, Texas, in April, where 2,000 of the youth sports books with the "I won't cheat" booklets were released.
Murphy will also be making a presentation during the upcoming American Legion World Series, and that organization has ordered 750 of the tandem products to distribute to all participants.
Murphy and his team will head to Georgia the first week of September to conduct some sessions there as well with a variety of groups.
Murphy has obvious ties there, and the governor contributed to the youth books. There is also heightened visibility to sports character issues in the state right now with the Michael Vick situation.
"People are talking more than ever about doing the right things for the right reasons," Murphy said. His visit there is expected to include meeting with the governor and the Atlanta Braves, doing some high school presentations and also some book signings.
Disney Sports, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association have also expressed interest in the "I won't cheat" program and preliminary discussions are scheduled to explore ways to get the message out.
For more information, go to the program Web site at iwontcheat.com.
Jared Lloyd can be reached at 344-2552 or [email protected] Beky Beaton contributed to this story.
This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page D1.