The Facts about anabolic steroids in sports
Hello folks, welcome to my new blog. Although I am best known for my writings on nutrition, weight loss, supplements, and bodybuilding, I also like to comment on larger issues, in this case, drugs in sports.
As some of you know, the “Mitchell Report” came out in 2007 and named names as far as steroid use in pro baseball. Those who may wish to read the entire report can see the URL below1. Of course anabolic steroid use goes MUCH further than baseball. If anything, baseball is a sport that has minimal steroid use compared to other sports. If any of you ever read the book that broke the baseball steroid story entitled Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports., yours truly is quoted on page 46 of that book2.
Back to the Mitchell Report…
I was interviewed by Senator Mitchell’s group about this issue during their research, though I have nothing directly to do with pro baseball or any pro baseball players, but I am well known for my expertise in this area.
They asked my opinion on what could be done, how prevalent did I think steroid use was in pro baseball, did I think it was higher then in pro football, and a bunch of others, but you get the idea. So what did I tell them? The major points I made to them was this:
• If they truly want to make a dent in the use of steroids in pro baseball, they will need to initiate true random testing as the IOC does (though I suspect the union would never go for that)
• I made it clear to them that the people who develop these “designer steroids” and advise the athletes in the use of these compounds, are often 10 steps ahead of the testers, so drug use will always be a part of pro sports. Some drugs, such as Growth Hormone, can’t be tested for at all, though a test for GH use has been in the works for some time now. Neither can a whole mess of different drugs, and some steroids are simply cycled properly to avoid detection.
• Relating to the last comments above, I told them that as long as we pay grown men millions of dollars to hit or catch a ball and view them as heroes and demigods, there would always be drugs in pro sports, to include, but not limited to anabolic steroids, growth hormone, insulin, Erythropoietin (EPO), Modafinil, diuretics, amphetamines, and many others.
• Finally, I told them the real problem in baseball is not steroids, it’s the use of amphetamines also known as “greenies” in baseball circles. Times Sports Columnist Gary Shelton, wrote an article that spilled the beans. His article was called “Steroids hoopla overshadowing deadlier drug” and was Published November 18, 2005. As Mr. Shelton put it:
“… in witch-hunting season, ‘roids are all the rage. Congressmen are talking about them. Ballplayers are talking about them. Except for Mark McGwire and the person in charge of Rafael Palmeiro’s B-12 shot, everybody is talking about them. In baseball, steroids have become the fashionable outrage.”
Mr. Shelton summed it up well when he stated:
“Amphetamines are a bigger problem than steroids. They are a greater danger. And, yes, the ban against them is going to have more of an affect.” How common is the use of amphetamines in pro baseball? According to Shelton:
“All you can say about amphetamine [in professional baseball] use is that it is as common as a fungo bat and, pretty much, is accepted as easily. Two years ago, Gwynn suggested that as many as 50 percent of position players used amphetamines to get ready for games. Chad Curtis, the former Yankees outfielder, says the number is 85 percent. Caminiti said there were only one or two players per team who didn’t take them…”
What about other sports who have faced this problem? He states:
“The NFL tests for amphetamines, as do the NBA and the NHL and the Olympics. Baseball never has. In baseball, it often has been a bigger disgrace for a player not to take amphetamines than to take them, and sometimes, it seems the key statistic might not be a batting average but a dosage. Turns out, this might be real Green Monster in the game.”
So what we have here is a rampant use of a much more dangerous drug than steroids that has apparently been ignored by the powers that be and the public in general. So what do I think of drug use in sports in general? I take a fairly Libertarian view of such things. Recently. National Public Radio (NPR) took on this topic in a segment entitled “Should We Accept Steroid Use in Sports?”
They did a commendable job of looking at the issue from both sides, vs. the classic “don’t confuse me with the facts” anti steroid side. From the NPR piece:
“Those who oppose the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs say that the athletes who use them are breaking the rules and getting an unfair advantage over others. Opponents of the drugs say the athletes are endangering not only their own health, but also indirectly encouraging youngsters to do the same.
Others maintain that it is hypocritical for society to encourage consumers to seek drugs to treat all sorts of ailments and conditions but to disdain drug use for sports. They say the risk to athletes has been overstated and that the effort to keep them from using performance-enhancing drugs is bound to fail.”3
They had a 6 panel debate with various pro and con experts on steroids (a few more like self proclaimed experts, but that’s another issue…) which was telling..
The bottom line here is, unless we as a society are willing and able to change our paradigm, drug use will remain an issue. If we continue to view athletes as defacto heroes and pay them tens of millions of dollar salaries, then they will continue to look for ways to get an edge over their teammates to get the big contracts. The problem is only going to get worse. Once gene manipulation, gene doping, and other tricks that are right around the corner arrive, there wont be any way to catch them, test them, or stop them. I don’t know what the answer is (drug tested and non drug tested leagues?) but I do know the current policies for dealing with drugs in pro sports have not worked and never will.
Finally, Major League Baseball (MLB), after much pressure, has initiated testing for amphetamines, and many of the top players such as Bonds and Jason Giambi promptly failed those tests! MLB has made a half hearted attempt at dealing with this issue, with athletes failing amphetamine tests not generally made public and penalties being much less severe vs. steroids.
Oh the irony…