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The latest on HGH testing: Bud embarks on another "study"

Apr 23, 2010, 9:16 AM EDT

HGH.jpgBud Selig says baseball’s new science adviser — Dr. Gary Green — is examining the human growth hormone blood
test
that the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”) is peddling but he isn’t sure when
the study will be completed.

This is classic Bud: when he doesn’t want to deal with something he commissions another “study.”  I’m assuming that the HGH test study will be complete some time after the “What should we do with the Athletics” study, which has been pending for well over a year now despite the fact that everyone knows what the result will be. I’ve been critical of that particular bit of foot-dragging, but in the case of the HGH test I’m just fine with it.

Why? Because the WADA HGH test is basically useless, because WADA is a publicity and profit-seeking shakedown operation, and that because no one ever calls them on it, Selig is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

As Murray Chass noted yesterday WADA’s head — Dr. Gary Wadler — is the go-to quote of choice whenever a steroids story pops up, selling his organization’s agenda and products as though he were an independent scholar or something. The effect of this is that anyone who exhibits opposition to WADA, even on legitimate grounds, has come to be seen by the media and the public as not being serious about combating PED use. And that’s even the case if the WADA product in question — an HGH blood test — is of dubious efficacy.

Bud Selig and baseball were late to the anti-PED party, but they’re pretty well-versed in it now. They know that WADA’s blood test has caught exactly one offender in several years, and even then it was because the authorities were tipped off about the guy using drugs beforehand. Because of that, they know that it’s probably a useless test that they’d never be able to sell to the players’ union.

But they also know that simply rejecting it out of hand would make them appear soft on PEDs and would lead to a bunch of articles — with critical quotes from Dr. Gary Wadler, natch — excoriating them. Articles that fail to note that the same man tut-tutting baseball is out to make a buck.

So what to do about it? Stall! Commission a study. Punt the issue for several months if not longer. And you know what? It’s the smart play.

  1. t ball - Apr 23, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    What’s even more ridiculous is that HGH has never been shown to actually, you know, help you play baseball. There is no scientific proof it does anything for baseball players, just anecdotes and extrapolation. Waste of time.

  2. jwb - Apr 23, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    In this case, there are good reasons for running a stall play. I’d like Selig to tell WADA, Wadler, et al. to go pound sand (double entendres worked so much better when Dick Pound was the face of the WADA franchise) but that’s bad PR. It also may draw the ire of grandstanding congresscritters. It’s not going to happen. Sooner or later, a reliable urine-based HGH test will be developed, or at least an indirect method, something like the elevated testosterone – epitestosterone ratio test. Until that day comes, stalling is a reasonable ploy.

  3. YankeesfanLen - Apr 23, 2010 at 9:57 AM

    All through this post-steroid era there have been incidents and accidents, there’s been hints and allegations, but some people want to keep it churning for reasons unknown. I hope someday even they will forced into ennui.
    WADA sounds like a 5000 watt country station in Birmingham AL owned by a couple of dentists as a tax write-off anyway.

  4. Joey B - Apr 23, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    LOL!
    WADA was formed by perhaps the preeminent sports organization in the world, the IOC, and half the funding comes from the IOC and half comes from governments around the world. I understand your commitment to allowing cheating, but is the anit-doping crusade now some sort of worldwide conspiracy?

  5. Rays fan - Apr 23, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    WADA’s mission is of great importance to all who love honest competition; however, their behavior ove the years has not been above reproach. They’ve repeatedly acted as though any sporting body that does not use their labs is automatically soft on doping. They’ve also frequently been guilty of leaking “A” sample results. The “A” sample in any testing program is a screen only–to reduce the number of samples that have to be subjected to more expensive confirmatory testing of the “B” sample. Many things can cause false positives of “A” sample tests (two examples: ibuprofen can cause a false positive screen for THC, dextromethorphan–the DM in Robitussin DM–can cause a false positive screen for PCP). Leaking those results without the “B” sample confirmation & ensuring there’s no legit prescription involved is unconscionable.
    As for HGH, as an earlier poster mentioned, there’s really only anecdotal evidence of it’s efficacy as a PED–no scientific studies have borne it out. Plus, the reason that there’s only been one positive HGH test in seven years is that it’s a naturally occuring hormone that’s cleared from the system within hours of use–catching someone requires a tip, as in the British rugby player’s case, or dumb luck. Of greater concern for the baseball commissioner’s office is that the HGH test requires a blood draw. The collective bargaining agreement with the union would have to be ammended to allow blood testing, and no such agreement from the union is likely.
    That leaves Selig with a choice: (1) announce there will be no HGH testing with the guaranteed excoriation in the news media for being soft on PED use, (2) enter into contentious negotiations with the union with guaranteed negative publicity for baseball, or (3) stall by commissioning a “study” with no intent of acting on any findings for the foreseeable future.
    Stalling is clearly the way to go.

  6. beagamer - Apr 23, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    Is there a study or proof that steroids help?

  7. t ball - Apr 23, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    @beagamer: No, I don’t believe there is much evidence that steroids do anything either. People forget that pitchers have been taking steroids as well, and in fact, more pitchers have been caught than hitters. Also, if you graph HR totals per game over the last 100 years you see a steady rise, not a spike in the “steroid era”. A sudden spike in offense in the early 90s corresponds very well with expansion.
    I’d believe in the live ball theory helping out, too, well before I’d believe that steroids did anything. Becoming a power lifter doesn’t help you hit a baseball. That’s sort of like me expecting to play piano louder because I lift weights. It’s more about using your body in the most efficient way, not brute strength.

  8. Old Gator - Apr 23, 2010 at 11:25 PM

    I have no doubt that if Bud Light weren’t already as senile as he used to be just plain stupid, he would have remembered the results of the last study and this latest exercise in futility would have been unnecessary.

  9. B Preston - Apr 25, 2010 at 10:15 AM

    HGH and steroids are totally different. The former is made in the body and the latter is not. Most smart athletes are taking homeopathic HGH oral spray because it’s so safe and will never be detected. It only gives them a 10%-20% bump in performance but that bump can be significant. Doesn’t chewing tobacco, red bull, and advil enhance performance?

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