Steroids have become a fact of life in the sports world, but rarely do those in the movie business have an intimate, first-person perspective on the dangers and allures of performance-enhancing drugs. But then, how many movie stars went from college football to professional wrestling to box office hits like
"I tried it," Johnson admitted. "Me and my buddies tried it back in the day when I was 18 or 19. Didn't know what we were doing."
That was around the time that Johnson was a defensive lineman for the University of Miami Hurricanes, where he was part of the 1991 National Championship team. After a short stint in the Canadian Football League, Johnson gave pro wrestling a go, and eventually became one of World Wrestling Entertainment's biggest stars. The WWE has experienced numerous steroid scandals, from the suspension of 10 wrestlers for drug-policy violations in 2007 to the suspected steroid-related deaths of stars Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit.
"It's not as prevalent today in our sports as it was 10 years ago," Johnson said. "But we have to recognize that a culture was created where it was OK to do that, and a lot of team managers, owners, players who didn't do it would turn the other cheek. We recognize that, and now we have to institute stronger penalties, which we are doing."
Stiff punishments and increased media attention aside, Johnson lamented that steroid use was so attractive for so many years to such a wide range of athletes, from the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez to female stars such as Olympian Marion Jones. "A-Rod is an example of a lot of guys — and women, for that matter — of that era in all athletics," Johnson said.
With his days as "The Rock" behind him and an ever-increasing presence in mainstream moviedom, Johnson emphasized the importance of teaching children about the various perils of performance-enhancing drugs. "I also believe in education," he said. "It's a bad example that you set for kids, and at the same time it's a good example for kids to follow, not in terms of the use, but in terms of the repercussions of what can happen because there is no replacement for hard work."