March 24, 2007

What Athletes, Fans, and the Sports Media Don't Understand About Human Growth Hormone: "The media haven't spent much time making a distinction between HGH and steroids. An AP story, titled After BALCO, Another Steroid Scandal, glosses over any differences between the two, drawing a straight line from the BALCO investigation to the busts in Florida. But Jerry Hairston isn't Barry Bonds. Sure, both of these guys probably took banned substances in an effort to boost their stats, and both were involved in major drug busts involving large numbers of Major League players. But it's just plain wrong to put growth hormone in the same category as anabolic steroids. In the sports version of the war on drugs, Bonds was shooting heroin while Hairston was smoking marijuana."

posted by Amateur to baseball at 10:45 PM - 34 comments

I wish Bonds HAD been shooting heroin... Then his records would be a REAL achievement...

posted by Drood at 10:50 PM on March 24

Should one even try to make a distinction? Anyone that takes either substance to enhance athletic performance is cheating, purely and simply. Does it really matter if a home run travels 550 feet versus 410 feet if both were hit by someone that cheated to boost power? Your analogy is akin to saying that a wooden bat corked with Cork is less of a violation than a bat that is corked with a small aluminum cylinder.

posted by Cave_Man at 11:33 PM on March 24

Yep, still cheating. I say doping the cheats with heroin is a good punishment. Let's see Bonds get the all time HR record when he's off his head on smack. Cheaters are scum. Bonds is scum. End of story.

posted by Drood at 01:36 AM on March 25

Should one even try to make a distinction? Anyone that takes either substance to enhance athletic performance is cheating, purely and simply. In that case, can I also lump other performance actions drugs like vitamin supplements & non-injury related eye surgery and call them cheaters without necessitating the need explain why each thing is performance enhancing? Or shall I just act upon the ignorance of everyone and scream CHEATER?!? A distinction is important because it helps to differentiate why something should and shouldn't be banned. Why should steroids & HGH be banned while other things aren't? We cannot rationally decide that unless we also consider precisely what makes things different in the first place. Ignorance is not bliss. Wait, did you even read the article?? The quote was taken from the Slate article- it's not amateur's actual analogy. If you read the article, you'd realize there is a very important distinction between HGH and anabolic steroids and the analogy isn't as simple as you make it out to be. Lastly, while the verdict is still out on Bonds (I have yet to see a guilty conviction), I have little to no doubt that other pro athletes were/are using banned substances. That by no means makes it right, but I think it's disingenuous to target just Bonds at every moment.

posted by jmd82 at 01:57 AM on March 25

I heard a rumor once that said abstaining from sex prior to competition is a good way to ensure peak performance. Goodness, I didn't realize I've been such a cheater!?!?

posted by Spitztengle at 03:22 AM on March 25

Spitztengle, if that is true, Wilt Chamberlain is the pinnacle of fair play. The lengths that man went to in order to even the playing fields is amazing!

posted by apoch at 05:58 AM on March 25

can I also lump other performance actions drugs like vitamin supplements & non-injury related eye surgery and call them cheaters without necessitating the need explain why each thing is performance enhancing? Or shall I just act upon the ignorance of everyone and scream CHEATER?!? You can, if the officials running the sport have designated those items as being prohibited, because then they'd be against the rules and so anyone availing of them would be cheaters. That being said I do think that anti-doping organisations should open up some sort of debate on what makes a banned substance, and why it is banned.

posted by Fence at 06:09 AM on March 25

Cave_Man, I realize I'm wasting my time, but given the intent of the post and article were to educate people about the differences, maybe it would be worth reading the article. Thanks for the post, Amateur.

posted by yerfatma at 08:15 AM on March 25

It is an interesting article; given the recent research on weed, alcohol, and heroin, the weed/heroin comparison may be particularly apt. Every time I read something like this, I think less of WADA- what integrity they have left is even more compromised when one realizes that they are now banning things that they don't even know work. Again, just like the 'real' war on drugs. Pah.

That said, HGH use by athletes still sketches me out- we don't dislike people for being effective cheaters, we dislike them for being cheaters. They know HGH is against the rules, and they use it anyway. Rose is broke because of his gambling, but that didn't win him any sympathy from MLB, nor should it have.

posted by tieguy at 09:45 AM on March 25

First graph after the break: But most clinical studies suggest that HGH won't help an athlete at all. Every study this guy cites is on the elderly. I don't know many pro athletes over the age of 60. Can you really base those findings on guys at the peak of health? Continuing with that paragraph: The other key difference is that while steroids cause a bevy of nasty side effects—testicular shrinkage, an increased risk of stroke—taking HGH doesn't seem to be that bad for you. Again, all the tests are on regular, typical older folks, and not guys in super shape like your average pro athlete. The natural production of this hormone decreases as you get older, so one would have to assume there'd be a big difference between an extremely healthy 30 year-old using this and a regular 70 year-old. It seems to be great if you're older, but I don't see anything in the cited studies that shows we have a clue what effect it'll have on the super-healthy 20-and-30somethings taking it now. Mr. Engbar conveniently seems to ignore that even as he points at the short-comings of one of the studies.

posted by SummersEve at 11:32 AM on March 25

If you've ever watch Penn and Tellers "Bullshit!" they did an episode on age defying stuff, including HGH, and there's actually evidence that it shortens your life, and the bodies reduction in it is actually one of the keys to a long life. Death seems a bit of a high price to pay for smacking a few more home runs, or being able to run a bit faster...

posted by Drood at 01:05 PM on March 25

Death seems a bit of a high price to pay for smacking a few more home runs, or being able to run a bit faster... When faced with the potential of a multi-million dollar contract and being bogged down in the minors, I'm sorry, but those steroids would like mighty enticing- especially if a teammate offers, consequences be damned.

posted by jmd82 at 04:05 PM on March 25

Without steroids & Bonds in the same story it doesn't sell.Because NO ONE would read it!Simple as that!Since when has sports or news writing had anything to do w/facts or journalistic integrity?Not since about 35 years ago in my memory!Surprising to me how many people believe what they read!GAWD!!!LOL

posted by squirrelone at 04:53 PM on March 25

The article ignores that we don't really understand the effects of steroids any better than we understand the effects of hgh. Yes, we know what steroids can do, but we have no real idea what steroids do do. Furthermore, the article completely ignores what we know about hgh use in young people who are still growing.

posted by spira at 06:39 PM on March 25

The article ignores that we don't really understand the effects of steroids any better than we understand the effects of hgh. Yes, we know what steroids can do, but we have no real idea what steroids do do. What exactly don't we understand about steroids, because we sure as hell know what they do in the short-term (basically, they're analogous to hormones which in turn activate specific chemical reactions in the body).

posted by jmd82 at 07:21 PM on March 25

Vitamins are a scam. If they really did anything for people, steriods would be totally unecessary. If you can't see a difference between a Flinstone vitamin and HGH, you shouldn't be thinking out loud (or on your own for that matter).

posted by yay-yo at 11:14 PM on March 25

There should be a ban on Wheaties, the performance-enhancing breakfast cereal.

posted by Hugh Janus at 11:44 PM on March 25

Since when has sports or news writing had anything to do w/facts or journalistic integrity? Every single time there's a story citing statistics, which in sports is about 80% of the time. Thankfully, I don't believe everything I read...especially when it's written by you.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 05:22 AM on March 26

Steroids and HGH are vastly different. HGH helps the body rebuild itself. If football players who sustained head trauma were allowed to take HGH after their concussion they would not suffer recurring problems later. It only helps the body recover not enhances the performance.

posted by jurasicfred at 05:41 AM on March 26

Steroids and HGH are vastly different. HGH helps the body rebuild itself. Again, allow me to suggest reading the article.

posted by yerfatma at 07:21 AM on March 26

What's the difference between steroids and HGH? For starters, we know that a baseball player can beef up on steroids and improve his athletic performance. As far as I know, there is no clinical evidence that steroids improve athletic performance at all -- only that they help build muscle and strength. That helps weightlifters, but no one knows how that translates into athletic performance. Similarly, there is evidence that HGH helps build muscle and improve exercise performance in adults.

posted by bperk at 09:00 AM on March 26

Black Hand i don't write as a journalist or for pay!I write opinions same as you,for you to agree w/or not,not for anyone to believe!& since when have one persons statistics engendered truth or accuracy?I can find an opposite statistic for every one you find!You're more than welcome to agree or not w/my OPINIONS.But if it makes you feel better to attack me for them,fine.I'll not take offense!Wish you a pleasant day sir!Truly!!! :)

posted by squirrelone at 10:40 AM on March 26

"Lastly, while the verdict is still out on Bonds (I have yet to see a guilty conviction).....but I think it's disingenuous to target just Bonds at every moment" I'm one that agrees with you. That's because this whole "steriod scandal" was started with 'leaked testimony' that was never supposed to reach the publics ears. It's a shame that because of who Barry Bonds is, this whole "scandal" has brought nothing but a 'witch hunt' upon Bonds. People can and will say what they want but the bottom line is, Barry Bonds and the media have never really seen eye to eye. Now that this story was 'leaked', every one of those media outlets that Bonds have crossed paths with (not in a good way) are now salivating like a pack of hungry wolves. "If football players who sustained head trauma were allowed to take HGH after their concussion they would not suffer recurring problems later. It only helps the body recover not enhances the performance" Did you even read what you write? You said it yourself, "It only helps the body recover...." Stop there. The body, not the mind. A person that suffers head trauma cannot recover from using HGH. Anytime someone experiences a concussion or some sort of head trauma, they start to lose some brain cells and/or experience short term memory loss. There's just no way to bring that back. Nice try though.

posted by BornIcon at 11:46 AM on March 26

squirrelone, I do sympathize with your passion; OTOH, you're probably as tired as me with "everything nowadays sucks, not like the good old days nope nope" rants. If you feel that journalism today, and sports journalism in particular, has nothing to do with "facts and journalistic integrity", I'd suggest that you consider a more discriminating approach to what you read. There have always been rewards for hack journalism, and publishers who allowed or encouraged it, but that's not the whole story. Try reading any of the "Best American Sports Writing" series -- they're some of my favorite writing of any kind.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:52 AM on March 26

A person that suffers head trauma cannot recover from using HGH. There is clinical evidence that traumatic brain injuries can cause growth hormone deficiencies and that individuals can benefit from growth hormone replacement.

posted by bperk at 12:21 PM on March 26

Line of the story in my opinion: "The most likely reason that athletes use HGH, though, is superstition. A ballplayer might shoot up with HGH for the same reason we take vitamin C when we have a cold: There's no good reason to think it does anything, but we're willing to give it a try." How long before we outlaw performance enhancing superstition? Would Wade Boggs have been banned for his pre-game ritual of marathon fried chicken eating? And please recognize this for all of its facetiousness. I don't know many pro athletes over the age of 60 I've got one .. Jose Mesa. He's got to be 60 right?

posted by gradys_kitchen at 04:07 PM on March 26

Drood: Cheaters are scum. Bonds is scum. End of story.
How is he a cheater? Any of the drugs he's known to have done were not against MLB rules when he did them- which incidentally is the same case with Mark McGwire, but stupidity and inattention to detail has long been the stock and trade of sportswriters and sports fans alike. They were illegal without a prescription, but that's not the same as "heroin"- more like Vicodin.
"Lastly, while the verdict is still out on Bonds (I have yet to see a guilty conviction).....but I think it's disingenuous to target just Bonds at every moment" I'm one that agrees with you. That's because this whole "steriod scandal" was started with 'leaked testimony' that was never supposed to reach the publics ears. It's a shame that because of who Barry Bonds is, this whole "scandal" has brought nothing but a 'witch hunt' upon Bonds. People can and will say what they want but the bottom line is, Barry Bonds and the media have never really seen eye to eye. Now that this story was 'leaked', every one of those media outlets that Bonds have crossed paths with (not in a good way) are now salivating like a pack of hungry wolves.
I completely agree. "Sports journalists" is an oxymoron. They're pure yellow journalists, personalizing their own feelings about a player or team, and adjusting their coverage and even their "facts" because of it. Bonds has never been found guilty, has never been found to use an MLB-banned substance, and has never been found to be using an illegal drug not on the MLB-banned list (because if it can be proven that he took some of the non-banned drugs like "the Cream", it'd also have to be without a prescription to be illegal). Yet "journalists" continue to rehash the "Bonds == Guilty" line without evidence simply because they dislike the guy. Stupidity abounds, and you end up with a witch hunt: everyone thinks he's guilty, everyone believes his Hall credentials are remotely debatable, because he didn't kiss enough tubby sports-writer ass in his early career. Most sports fans are cowards and intellectual lightweights. Actually, most people are that way, it's just exacerbated in sports.

posted by hincandenza at 12:47 PM on March 27

So all people covering sports are useless, they all attack Barry Bonds out of personal animosity and the majority of sports fans are spineless idiots. I think all those logical fallacies chained together make for a compelling argument, but I'm a sports fan so take that with a grain of salt.

posted by yerfatma at 01:44 PM on March 27

If you want to add yourself to the list of "cowards and intellectual lightweights" when talking about sports fans, by all means, go for broke. I, on the other hand tend to look at things without being baised, or at least I try. It just bothers me for people to automatically put the guilty stamp on Bonds because he put on some muscle mass. So what if he got jacked up? Maybe he put in long ass hours at the gym, do you really know? I sure as hell don't and unless there is absolute evidence pointing at Barry Bonds using anything illegal according to MLB, he's just as clean as future Hall of Famer, Roger Clemens. I'm not suggesting that all sports journalist are out to get Bonds but as much of a fact that these very same sports journalist are the ones that get to vote an athlete in the Hall of Fame and sometimes just don't even bother to vote for a guy simply because they don't want to, I just wouldn't put it past them.

posted by BornIcon at 11:27 AM on March 28

"An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition." You're arguing a straw man and I can't help you. I may disagree with Hal, but at least we can discuss various points. You seem to be surrounding some nebulous proposition that no one is really debating.

posted by yerfatma at 01:09 PM on March 28

Why make it seem as if it's unheard of for some people to have a hidden agenda who use their position of power in any way to make sure another individual doesn't succeed? It does in fact happen in all walks of life, not just in sports. How could you think that no one is debating whether or not Barry Bond used steriods or not, just because your not involved? It has been pretty much covered by media outlets for the past few years and the topic was raised in this very thread earlier by someone else, not sure if you read that or not.

posted by BornIcon at 01:47 PM on March 28

Why make it seem as if it's unheard of for some people to have a hidden agenda who use their position of power in any way to make sure another individual doesn't succeed? And that, my friend, is a straw man.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:34 PM on March 28

It just bothers me for people to automatically put the guilty stamp on Bonds because he put on some muscle mass. We've covered this many times before, so I'm not going to debate it again, but you're completely mischaracterizing the reasons many people believe bonds to be guilty. I've read everything I can find, looked at it from every angly, and for many reasons believe without doubt that bonds' is guilty. I find it far more difficult to believe that he's innocent. I came to that conclusion through reason and logic. That's my opinion. I don't need proof. People can disagree with me, and I'm fine with that, but when you're basing his innocence on no formal proof and paranoia (everyone's out to get him) I fail to see how you can call others intellectual lightweights.

posted by justgary at 10:11 PM on March 28

I fail to see how you can call others intellectual lightweights I didn't call anyone intellectual lightweights, this is what I did say: "If you want to add yourself to the list of "cowards and intellectual lightweights" when talking about sports fans, by all means, go for broke." I was being sarcastic. If you were to look at the post made by Hal, he mentioned that, "Most sports fans are cowards and intellectual lightweights", so that's where that came from. If you want to make Bonds guilty over your"assumptions", your more than welcomed to do so. I just refuse to do so based on what other people are saying. Pete Rose was found guilty of betting on baseball and banned from the sport because of burden of proof, not because he admitted to it, because we know that he only recently admitted to doing so, but because there were betting slips with Rose's handwriting all over them. These are two different topics but the situation is very similar. When this first happened with Pete Rose, there were many people that thought he was guilty but then there were others that didn't think he did it. Of course he lied but still, there were people on both sides of the fence for all the years. The same can be said about Bonds, maybe he's lying and maybe he's not but if he's guilty, he should be dealt with the same as any other cheater. But what if he's not? What then? There will still be people on the fence until the truth comes out. Until then, we can continue to give our opinions on this subject but I simply rather enjoy watching the game.

posted by BornIcon at 10:03 AM on March 29

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