Human Growth Hormone, Testosterone, Biogenesis and the MLB Supplement Game

MLB is trying very hard to rid itself of performance enhancing drugs. It has banned a long list of steroids and other products. Recently, Commissioner Selig has suspended 13 players for between 50 games to 211 games for Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees third baseman. These suspensions were based on evidence of drug use obtained from the records of Biogenesis, a Miami Youth Clinic.

Last night at dinner with my friend, Jeff Husband, I decided to get the story from him. Jeff is a noted orthopedic surgeon at Tria and one of the leading hand surgeons in the country. (I learned that from another friend who told me she had been operated on by the “leading hand surgeon, Jeff Husband”.) I asked Jeff just what it was that Biogenesis was giving these players. He then explained the Human Growth Hormone (hGH) and testosterone therapies that Biogenesis offered. He said this sort of therapy was common.  For example, hGH had legitimate uses but he was not sure of the beneficial effect in athletics. For a description, look here.

For testoterone, again the benefits are increased strength, lean body mass, and endurance, but the potential side effects, he mentioned many, were very dangerous. For a description look here. However, it seems that players are very eager to take these supplements to enhance performance, and they think it works. What is it that the players seek that causes them to risk life, health and their careers by using these products?

The simple answer is “Youth.” We all think of that and recall some point in our lives that we would like to return to, but most of us recognize that there are benefits to maturity, as well, and we bask in those benefits. For a baseball player, that point in time is when they were 27 and they were at the peak of their perfomance. If they can maintain that level for just a few years, they will have signed a multi-year, mega-million dollar contract, and can then stop using. It is a very enticing prospect and one that is hard, if not impossible, to resist.

Jeff and I are not immune to that prospect, and, some years ago, we started using a product called Protandim. My introduction to Protandim occured while lawyering a stock trade for one of the inventors of the product.  I found it to be beneficial. Then the stock deal tanked and I ended up defending a client in a suit brought by the inventor. Now Protandim was supposed to be a magical combination of herbs and spices, that working synergistically, cured all ills, The formula was secret as to the ratio of the various ingredients, but they were listed on the package.

During the pre-trial discovery process, I deposed the inventor and came away with the impression that there was no way this fellow was ever going to invent anything of scientific merit. I then looked at the product and investigated the ingredients, mainly Turmeric, see here . I found that the beneficial effect of the product was due almost entirely to the large amount of Turmeric, an Indian spice in the Ayurvedic tradition, that it contained. I now know others who have discovered Turmeric.

The point of this story is to point out that the search for youth is not just for athletes, but for all of us. Protandim is sold in a multi-level distribution program that is very popular.

A quick search of the web disclosed a multitude of such products, each offering the benefits that the baseball players were seeking from hGH and testosterone at clinics like Biogenesis. The search will continue as it always has, I only hope for good outcomes and the avoidance of the dangers of overuse, which are ever present. Sports must maintain its vigil, abusers suspended and others educated. I hope for sucess in this area soon.

Drug Use and the Distance Runner

This may or may not be my first blog posting as I tried it last week and the post has not appeared anywhere, although I thought I had done all the appropriate steps to do so. So here we go again.
The most memorable item from the last week was an interview I did with the BBC on drug use among distance runners. The topic is relevant, said the interviewer, due to new interest in the subject. He didn’t say more. I mentioned that distance runners have the same needs cyclists have. These needs are stamina and lean body strength. So EPO, HGH, testosterone, some steroids and high altitude testing or use of high altitude tents would be the order of the day. I also mentioned that Jose Canseco said “that drugs are popular because they work.” 
Without getting into the many drug penalties assessed by USADA etc. over the decades, the most interesting aspect of this is that drug use has a very positive psychological benefit as well. The runner in a marathon goes through the “wall” better if he/she knows they are befitting from drugs. This also has an effect on the oppositon who feels unable to compete against a doper. This was the reason given for pitchers to use steroids when facing hitters who used the drugs. The pitchers needed to be enhanced as well.
This asks the question if drug use has a psychological benefit, wouldn’t placebo do the same? A trainer could give a player a tablet of milk sugar, tell them to use only one, never before sleeping, only four hours before competing, etc. and the runner/player would have all the benefits of placebo without the danger of being tested positive.
This is an interesting thought, and it is appropriate for a first blog because this is a subject that I enjoy writing about.