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The new world of modern athletes - Johnny Jackson

I learned Friday the news that Michael Hutts, the 21-year-old pitcher for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, had died. The cause, as of late Friday, was unknown.

This came a few days after I learned that another 21-year-old, outfielder Jordan Schafer of the Atlanta Braves minor league organization, would be suspended 50 games for use of human growth hormones.

The pair of news-ridden incidences really puts things back into perspective. Two of the unlikeliest suspects have succumb to ill fates.

Twenty-one-year-old athletes - one dead and the other allegedly needing to use human growth hormones (HGH) typically held to older people.

There were two bright careers, now done or blemished.

The latter still confounds me. Assuming Schafer used HGH, he may have used for medical reasons or to increase his lean muscle mass which will not exactly help him on the baseball field.

The use of HGH in an athlete is a tell-tale sign and representation of modern sports in which athletes use drugs and synthetic hormones to supplement already strenuous workouts.

And the result of those intense workouts quickly create a need for other drugs like painkillers that inherently create habits for pain-stricken athletes.

But the superhuman presumption, we are finding out each day we hear news about one "fallen" athlete or another is not the right presumption for young athletes. They, too, are human on a stage that highlights their flaws.

Perhaps the one good thing about all this is that we realize once again that no one is perfect and no one is really spared in life, regardless of age and occupation.

The daily reports of young athletes - wrestlers, baseball players, and so on - addicted to pain killers, dying, or using a performance enhancing drug are something not so foreign to me any more.

According to the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, the most recent survey of collections of newspaper articles for the year 2000 indicates that the occurrence of these catastrophes is at least seven-10 times higher than previously believed.

This is, perhaps, the reality of the world today. But I'll hope and pray for those athletes who are not realistic.

Johnny Jackson is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at jjackson@henryherald.com or at (770) 957 - 9161.