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Is it time for Human Growth Hormone testing?

Feb 23, 2010, 1:18 PM EDT

HGH.jpgA U.K. rugby player tested positive for HGH recently and that fact has the New York Daily News and Buster Olney both arguing that it’s high time for baseball to implement a test of their own. If they do not, Olney says, “10
years from now they and the sport will be at risk for another round of
PED hand-wringing.”

Of course, almost 100% of the HGH hand-wringing we’ve seen to date steadfastly ignores the fact that there is virtually no evidence showing that HGH enhances athletic performance, so we should only take the hand-wringing only so seriously.

Not that I’m against testing for it. Indeed, I’m fine with this if, as Buster says, the implementation of testing is
accompanied by getting every bit of information in the hands of the
players, the union and MLB and allowing them to thoroughly and
thoughtfully consider everything. Even if there is no evidence that HGH improves performance, there is some evidence that off-label use of HGH is dangerous. And really, if the players and the league all get together and decide — after some deliberation and consensus-building — that blue socks are bad for the game, I’m fine with them banning those too. It’s their industry and their workplace rules and hey can do what they want with it.

My prediction, however, is that opposed to implementing something considered and reasonable, everyone will bow to media pressure and implement some
half-assed, P.R.-driven plan that addresses virtually none of the legitimate concerns regarding HGH while blowing its dangers and effects out of any reasonable proportion.

  1. Jonny5 - Feb 23, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    Yes, test them. If they don’t test them, this is a total head scratcher for me. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3336898

  2. Ryan - Feb 23, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    Consider this conjecture because I don’t really care enough to dig into the validity of this statement, so WARNING: I know someone (a professional, doctor-type) who used to use steroids and he told me that HGH has no benefit when used alone, that it helps out immensely after you’ve done a steroid cycle. He explained it as such – steroids work to build your muscle, HGH works to keep them from atrophying after you cycle off the steroids. If that’s true, the value of HGH is obvious. Anyone know more on the topic that can comment?

  3. Lawrence From Plattekill - Feb 23, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    You and Olney are being somewhat misleading saying that there is virtually no evidence that HGH enhances athletic performance, based on the articles Olney links to. Yes, none of the studies he links to show that athletic performance is improved. Also, none of them show it isn’t. In fact, none of the studies he links to concern any athlete or any test of athletic performance. The studies concerned either subjects older than 60 years or those who had suffered serious problems and were expectetd to be in intensive care for at least 10 days. This has nothing to do with the question at hand.
    You could just as easily summarize these results by saying, “The question of enhancing athletic performance using HGH has not yet been investigated.”
    Not that I’m disagreeing with your attitude toward testing, but sneering at people for worrying about HGH is pretty obnoxious. People have concerns. Let’s investigate.

  4. Lawrence From Plattekill - Feb 23, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    Oops, sorry, I didn’t mean Olney, I meant Engbar in the Slate article.

  5. Jonny5 - Feb 23, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    Well it’s as easy as this for me Lawrence. If it had no performance enhancing properties, why would athletes use them??? Non injured athletes use them too. It must at least give them an edge or help them recoup after a tough day of playing…

  6. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Feb 23, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    [Semantics] but it probably depends on your definition of performance enhancing. Do you mean, just makes you stronger/faster/quicker/more agile? Or does allowing you to recover from workouts/injuries faster = performance enhancing?

  7. Drew - Feb 23, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    If it has no performance enhancing properties, why did Turk Wendell brush his teeth between innings? Why don’t pitchers step on the chalk lines? Or for a more medically-oriented answer, why do so many people use homeopathic “cures” when they’re nothing but inert solutions? Just because someone thinks something is helpful doesn’t make it so.

  8. Joey B - Feb 23, 2010 at 2:57 PM

    “Well it’s as easy as this for me Lawrence. If it had no performance enhancing properties, why would athletes use them??? Non injured athletes use them too. It must at least give them an edge or help them recoup after a tough day of playing…”
    Of course. Possibly life-threatening steroids were used by McGwire for no apparent advantage. ARod, worth a couple of hundred million, had his cousin shoot him with something and he didn’t even know what it was. Now athletes are taking HGH. It might kill you, and can’t help you, so why not take it?
    I swear, either most athletes are dumber than a pet rock, or the denial here is deeper than it is in Egypt. And, FWIW, there is probably legitimate reasons to investigate whether or not HGH can be used to keep regular people healthier.

  9. Mike Z. - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:10 PM

    When you start applying scientific studies to professional sports, you run into problems making it all work. The main reason? Researchers can’t perform studies on professional athletes at the same dosages the athletes use, whether it’s HGH or steroids or even creatine. Therefore the studies cited become educated guesses at best. Useless, at worst. One thing that is known about HGH is how dangerous it can be when not administered by folks who know what they’re doing. HGH, as a growth hormone, accelerates growth in ALL the cells in your body, not just muscles, so if you have even a smidgen of cancer, guess what happens? If some of these athletes have any prostate cancer cells or testicular cancer — which is usually a young man’s cancer — God help them, because James Andrews and Lewis Yocum can’t fix that.

  10. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    I taught them. You can train a pet rock to sit. I wish I could say the same for some of the athletes in my classes. A few – whose names you might well know – must have been working from enlarged spinal ganglia in their asses, like sauropods, because they evinced very little evidence of any large masses of tissue above their brain stems. But to be fair, I also had a few who were extraordinarily bright. One, in fact, decided to skip what back then was a pretty big signing bonus for a woman and go on to grad school and what has become an impressive career in genetic research.
    .
    One can only hope she will return the favor for the athletic scholarship that got her through her undergraduate years and figure out how to make some of her male colleagues – or, at least, their issue – a lot less stupid.

  11. Jonny5 - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:15 PM

    Any or all of the above copo. Since it’s banned, most players don’t use it, those that do break the rules must be getting at least something from it.
    ……. Now, i’m not saying people are purposely ignoring all science when it comes to HGH, but why ignore this particular scientific info? When they’re posting (objectively, pffft) other scientific information. Which is commonly found everywhere thanks to google. http://www.advice-hgh.com/human-growth-hormone.html

  12. Lawrence From Plattekill - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    It’s possible that it doesn’t do what they think it does. People use–oh, I don’t know, let’s pick one out of a hat–homeopathy, even though there’s plenty of evidence that it doesn’t work.
    Yeah, we might as well ban it now. It’s not like depriving athletes of it will cheat them.
    But my main point is, let’s investigate. Let’s find out.

  13. Jonny5 - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    Why investigate? Investigation results will just be ignored….. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/growth-hormone/HA00030
    …Honestly it’s everywhere. Yet you have guys saying there is no proof it helps. if it helps Elderly people, it will help the young, this is why athletes take it.

  14. Lawrence From Plattekill - Feb 23, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    Investigate so that we can argue from knowledge, not from ignorance. There is some anecdotal evidence that it helps. Let’s found out if that’s true, and maybe quantify how much it helps, and what it does, and how it does it. Let’s found out what the side effects are, too.
    It is not true that if something helps the elderly grow denser bones, it will help a 20-year old hit home runs, and there are plenty of reasons why, if you bother to learn about them.
    let’s investigate so that we don’t have to accept argues people make when they don’t really know what’s happening.
    Let’s actually learn to appreciate knowledge, and not be swayed by things that seem so but aren’t.

  15. Jonny5 - Feb 23, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    No,I agree. There should be more extensive testing done on the drugs themselves. I’m very sure we’ll find it’s just another form of PED and should be banned. The benefits extend to connective tissues, and muscle as well which also enhance performance for many reasons. My point is, the proof is in the pudding. If players use a known banned substance, it’s because it works.

  16. Roger Moore - Feb 23, 2010 at 7:23 PM

    if it helps Elderly people, it will help the young, this is why athletes take it.
    Maybe you should read that more carefully, like the part where it says, “Although it appears that human growth hormone injections can increase muscle mass and reduce the amount of body fat in healthy older adults, the increase in muscle doesn’t translate into increased strength. In fact, researchers have found that strength training is a cheaper, more effective way to increase muscle mass and strength.” That doesn’t sound like evidence that HGH is a PED.

  17. Jonny5 - Feb 23, 2010 at 7:41 PM

    Maybe you should read more 007. That was with no exercise. Imagine if you actually weight trained???? It helps heal connective tissue and muscle.. I don’t see where it would hurt. And i guess athletes don’t either. Why would they spend 20 grand a month on a banned substance that does nothing for them???? No logic in that is there? As far as I know, you don’t get much from roids without training either. we all know that’s a PED.

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