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Wednesday, February 06, 2008
 
Dispelling the Myth about HGH

At the Congressional hearing last month, Congressman John Yarmouth twice challenged the notion whether performance enhancing substances do in fact enhance performance. Mitchell said "a lot of it is psychological" as well as "speeding recovery time" and Selig's response was that most people and trainers believe these drugs enhance performance in baseball. However, there is no medical or scientific evidence whatsoever suggesting that these drugs improve performance in baseball. To take it one step further, there is a lack of evidence to support Mitchell's statement that they even allow athletes to more quickly recuperate. In an article about Sylvester Stallone's use of HGH and testosterone, USA Today's Elizabeth Weise interviewed researchers who can't prove that HGH does anything but reduce body fat:
It has been popular in recent years with bodybuilders and athletes because they believe it will increase muscle mass, decrease fat and allow them to more quickly recuperate after punishing workouts.
Studies have found that it can slightly, but only slightly, increase muscle mass. And because it cuts down on body fat, it can give bodybuilders the "ripped" look they want, says Alan Rogol, a professor of endocrinology at the University of Virginia and Indiana University School of Medicine.
But there's not a lot of evidence that the hormone does anything else, says George Merriam, a professor and endocrine researcher at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Seattle.
"If Mr. Stallone is taking his growth hormone shots to improve the way he looks without his shirt on, the benefits that he's talking about may be real," Merriam says. But he says most studies have consistently shown that "there isn't improvement in physical or physiological performance."
Marc Blackman, associate chief of staff for research at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center, who has conducted many of the definitive studies on growth hormone and aging, says despite years of research worldwide, no one "has yet been able to show that supplementing growth hormone improves the function of the body."





26 Comments:

And what do you think?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/06/2008 7:51 AM  


I think it's interesting that so many people are convinced that HGH and testosterone actually enhance performance and provide a competitive advantage when there is no evidence to support it. Don't you think?

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 2/06/2008 10:29 AM  


Absolutely! No evidence whatsoever. Gotta get back to my training, however: http://www.search-female-physique.com/4images/data/media/75/friend_monica.jpg

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/06/2008 11:18 AM  


Are you kidding?
The use of performance enhancing substances is tearing at the fabric of our society!

This is serious. We have an obligation to all youth athletes to encourage playing by the rules. Even the suggestion that HGH and Testosterone don't enhance performance ventures far to close to condoning thier use.

Your comments, Rick and Anon, make me cringe.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/06/2008 12:33 PM  


"The use of performance enhancing substances is tearing at the fabric of our society!"

Surely, this can't be serious. Tearing at the fabric of society?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/06/2008 2:23 PM  


Whatever the definitive answer as to performance enhancing drugs, the principle should be upheld, no PEDs unless authorized. Its disingenuous to knowingly use PEDs, then say in hindsight, they do not work. Perhaps its not about the "fabric of society" but it is about integrity of sports and personal integrity.

Blogger qtlaw24 -- 2/06/2008 5:00 PM  


If there is no link between testosterone or HGH and improved on-field performance, they cannot be called PED's--they do not actually enhance performance. And we return to the first question of why these drugs should be banned--if they do not give players an on-field advantage, what is the rationale for banning them? "Integrity of the game" does not cut it because if the drugs do not work to improve performance, then they do not threaten the integrity of the game.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 2/06/2008 5:21 PM  


Test and HGH are amazing. So, there's no "If" Howard. For anyone who wants to try to debate the "if", well, how about leaving your computer screen and go to your local gym. You'll see....

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/06/2008 5:27 PM  


Isn't increasing muscle mass an element of increasing strength? If it increases strength, even slightly, it would seem to have some benefit to performance if strength is a benefit to the activity.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/06/2008 5:32 PM  


Seriously. Go workout and quit posting nonsense. The guys (and girls) at the gym who look abnormally large with bulging veins, muscles, short tempers, screaming expletives (and more than likely a tatoo of barbed wire on their arm): well, Uncle Test and Cousin HGH are working out with them...its not because they "think" the stuff helps.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/06/2008 5:40 PM  


No one is questioning that HGH and steroids are effective in building muscle mass and making people big. That does not necessarily equate with enhanced performance *in baseball*, which was Rick's point. Being bigger does not necessarily help someone hit a baseball or throw a fastball for a strike--in other words, it does not necessarily enhance performance in baseball (as opposed to making you bigger and stronger).

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 2/06/2008 7:36 PM  


There comes a time when legal scholars should not pretend to be scientists. That time is now. Anyone who has been involved in competitive sports in the last 15-20 years at an elite level in high school, college or the professional ranks is well aware of the impact that HGH and testoserone and its precursors have on the increase in size, speed, strength and how it improves performance. Whether they should be legal is another argument. Still, for those who want to cast reasonable doubt on the efficacy of such drugs, well, keep on arguing, debating, manipulating. Your arguments might serve well in the courtroom, classroom, or over a dinner meal. However, on the field, court, track or in the gym, you would be laughed at. Why do people use HGH and steroids? Because they work.

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Blogger tutekx -- 2/07/2008 4:01 AM  


"There comes a time when legal scholars should not pretend to be scientists. That time is now."

There comes a time when anaonymous posters should not pretend to be an athlete.

I cannot figure out how extra strength, or muscle mass, or whatever "benefit" you want to call it, helps a pitcher throw strikes or helps a pitcher throw a better curve ball? If you have ever been in a locker room you would know that pitchers, on average, have bad bodies.

You can lift all the weights you want, but if you can't throw strikes, you can't pitch in little league, much less the big leagues.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/07/2008 8:14 AM  


Howard,

I see your point (and Rick's) that we cannot see a direct link between HGH testosterone and enhanced performance in baseball. But as to your question

And we return to the first question of why these drugs should be banned--if they do not give players an on-field advantage, what is the rationale for banning them? "Integrity of the game" does not cut it because if the drugs do not work to improve performance, then they do not threaten the integrity of the game.

While they may not give a baseball player a competative advantage, they are still illegal and dangerous drugs. to me, thats enough to ban them, thus not even reaching the issue of performance.

Blogger Jimmy H -- 2/07/2008 8:52 AM  


Jimmy H:

Saying HGH and testosterone are illegal begs the question--why are they illegal or why should they be illegal? Saying they are dangerous does more work on that point. The question then becomes whether they are dangerous drugs with which MLB or the NFL should be concerned. I have questioned before how much leagues/teams should police player's off-field (mis)conduct, unless it affects or potentially performance on the field or the integrity of the game (beyond PR effects). If Rick is correct that the jury still is out on the *BASEBALL-related* effects of HGH, even if it is illegal.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 2/07/2008 10:06 AM  


Thanks for all the comments.

Anon, you said that we have an obligation to the youth to encourage playing by the rules, and that questioning whether these drugs enhance performance tends to condone their use. I think we have a greater obligation to teach our youth to LISTEN, to ask questions, to not just believe something just because somebody says it, and to give the accused in society every opportunity to defend himself/herself in a fair proceeding. And that's not "legal" jargon.

Also, I actually believe that we need to do the complete reverse of what you said -- We need to explain to the youth that it is highly questionable whether these drugs even enhance performance. If we are telling them that using these drugs will make them better athletes, then they are probably going to be more inclined to use them. Why not highlight the fact that there is no evidence that these drugs enhance your performance, and instead show them how the drugs can actually hinder athletic performance (by adding too much bulk and making you more prone to injury -- both of which CAN be proven).

And the fact that athletes use them is not compelling evidence (at least to me) that they enhance performance. Despite what you said, I actually was involved in competitive sports at an elite level 15-20 years ago. But that doesn't mean that I'm an "expert" and that's why I cited to the experts in the article. But from my experiences (and feel free to take it or leave it), the drugs were around then and most of us didn't feel "pressure" to use them, nor did we really care if another player chose to use them. I know that players do some strange things because they "think" it improves their performance. I knew a pitcher that brushed his teeth after every inning, jumped over the chalk line on his way to the mound, and had to have the centerfielder wave to him before he threw the first pitch. It's like when Crash told Annie in Bull Durham, "If you think you're playing well because you wear women's underwear, then you are!" I never wore women's underwear, but I did have to eat two roast beef sandwiches at Arby's for lunch every day during a four game homerun streak.

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 2/07/2008 11:11 AM  


Well put!

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/07/2008 12:42 PM  


The lack of "medical or scientific evidence" that HGH or steroids improves on-field importance does not mean that they do not. It means it has not been tested. Or at least, I am aware of no study or experiment in which this was measured. As such, wouldn't it be better to say that there is a lack of evidence as to whether or not they improve performance? (by phrasing it only in the negative -i.e., "no evidence that they improve performance - it biases the sentence).

To the extent that HGH and steroids can increase strength and muscle mass, decrease fat and allow users to more quickly recuperate after punishing workouts, I think it is reasonable to believe that they could improve performance. (In scientific terms, this would be a hypothesis which needs to be tested in an experiment, which as noted above, has not been done).

Wouldn't it make sense to see there is an effect on performance? The best study would be to provide these drugs to some people but not to others (i.e., the control group) and see what the effects are. An easier option would be to look at the performance of numerous athletes who are or were on drugs. (For example, the cyclists David Millar did a lot better when he took various illegal performance enhancing drugs than when he did not.). Either way, it cries out for study (although my economist friends would tell you that if the players believe it works, then the market has spoken).

Anonymous DF -- 2/07/2008 3:28 PM  


DF, now that's what I would call "legal jargon". But in any event, the medical researchers in the article even question whether it allows users to more quickly recuperate. Also, what if increasing muscle mass actually slows down a batter's swing?

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 2/07/2008 5:25 PM  


Ummm, here we go with the "what if" legal jargon again......however, the Arby's reference was a good one....

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/07/2008 5:42 PM  


On the fifth day, I went off the Arby's and was 0 for 4 with 2Ks

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 2/07/2008 7:30 PM  


See! Clearly it was either the Jamocha shake or the Big Montana effect....:)

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/07/2008 8:11 PM  


HGH studies are flawed for the same reason steroid studies are. The dosages in studies fall well below ranges typical for abusers because real-world doses pose serious health risks. "Lack of mundane realism."

So, while it might be true that modest doses are related to modest gains in muscle mass, it might also be true that much larger doses lead to much larger gains in muscle mass. It's also important to recognize that drugs are taken in combination in addition to being taken in very high dosages, especially HGH and steroids.

And while there's a moral element related to cheating, it's also a public health issue because use at the highest levels of competition expands geometrically to use at lower levels, such as high schools.

Anonymous Uncle Bruno -- 2/10/2008 3:57 PM  


Uncle Bruno,

I dont think anyone in here has questioned the health risks of HGH or Anabolic Steroids. most posters have even commented that the health issues are the most compelling reasons for a league ban.

The health issue does not really go hand in hand with "cheating", if we cannot determine that there is a competative advantage.

as far as placing the blame on the Pro's for making steroids "popular" and thus causing the high school kids to use is a bit suspect to me. Steroids have been around for along time, and I remember plenty of people using at the lower levels before sterids became a media issue.

Blogger Jimmy H -- 2/12/2008 7:58 AM  


Most ballplayers today are taking homeopathic human growth hormone oral spray because it's safe, undetectable, and legal for over the counter sales. As time goes on it seems it might be considered as benign a performance enhancer as coffee, aspirin, red bull, chewing tobacco, and bubble gum.

Blogger Billy -- 2/22/2009 1:35 PM  


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