A FORMER Argus reporter is tackling the issues of drugs in sport and the rapid increase in their abuse by young men in a new novel to be published in March.

Steve Howell, 60, was a reporter with the Argus between January 1993 and November 1994 and has lived in Newport for more than 20 years.

A one-time athlete with Newport Harriers, having trained with Jamie Baulch and Christian Malcolm at Spytty Park between 1993 and 1995, Mr Howell also covered athletics on the sports desk of the Argus.

His new work of fiction, Over the Line, tells the story of how the ambitions of Megan Edwards, Britain’s poster girl for the 2016 Olympics, are threatened by a drugs scandal and a police investigation into the steroid-linked death of an old school friend, Matt Davies.

Set mainly in Newport and London, the novel – which has been published by Quaero – tells its story through the eyes of Megan Edwards’ coach, Liam McCarthy.

Mr Howell, who is the chief executive of Freshwater UK, an independent communications consultancy, said that he was moved to write the book because of the effect steroids were having on youngsters.

He said: “Originally, it was going to be for a teenage audience, but I wanted Megan Edwards to have a lot to lose and to be tarnished by the association with the steroids.

“It’s to show two aspects, really: the elite aspect, which generally gets media profile, as we saw with Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong.

“Then, personally, it was more important to draw attention to the extent of steroids and how they are routinely used.

“Reverse anorexia is not widely understood. Boys with not that much self-esteem are insecure and bulking up gives them status to their male friends and makes them attractive to women.”

He added: “It’s not just a handful of young lads – it’s very common. The extent that kids are using needle exchanges and the effect steroids are having on a heart proves that it’s a really serious problem.

“When they’re pumping stuff into their bodies, the kids don’t know just what a time bomb it is.

“I hope, above all else, that this leads to a proper debate about the problem of steroids and image enhancement for teenage boys.

“It’s a deadly health risk.”

With intermittent breaks, the book took Mr Howell seven years to write part-time and the word count comes to around 85,000 words.

Mr Howell said that it had always been an ambition to write a book, but that it proved a challenging process.

He said: “It’s always difficult to do with a day job and, given the volume and pressure, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

“You are teaching yourself to do something you have never done before and sustaining the plot and these characters was very challenging.

“Hopefully, by telling the story in a stark way, it will make people think. “

Priced at £7.99, pre-orders of the paperback edition of Over the Line can be made at steve-howell.com