Late yesterday, The New York Daily News broke the story that Rick Ankiel received several shipments of human growth hormone (HGH) in 2004.
According to records obtained by The News and sources close to the controversy surrounding anti-aging clinics that dispense illegal prescription drugs, Ankiel received eight shipments of HGH from Signature Pharmacy in Orlando from January to December 2004, including the brand-name injectable drugs Saizen and Genotropin. Signature is the pharmacy at the forefront of Albany District Attorney David Soares’ two-year investigation into illegal Internet prescription drug sales, which has brought 22 indictments and nine convictions.
Ankiel’s prescriptions were signed by Florida physician William Gogan, who provided them through a Palm Beach Gardens clinic called “The Health and Rejuvenation Center,” or “THARC.” The drugs were shipped to Ankiel at the clinic’s address.
THARC also provided a shipment of steroids and growth hormone to former major league pitcher Steve Woodard, who pitched for Milwaukee, Cleveland, Texas and Boston during a seven-year career that ended in 2003, according to records. Woodard and Ankiel were teammates with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds in 2004.
First, let me repeat what I have said a number of times. There is no evidence that HGH improves athletic performance—none, zero, zilch. This is the consensus of the exercise physiology profession. The people who study this stuff as their profession say that HGH is useless for building strength. Why isn’t this being reported in the media? In the first post I wrote on the topic I reported the following.
With MLB’s adoption of mandatory testing for steroids, many thought that home run rates would drop dramatically. They didn’t, and many felt that the lack of a test for HGH could be part of the explanation. Well, it’s time for the scientists working on such a test to start something else more important. Even if players are taking HGH, the drug no more effective than ionized bracelets, magnets in your shoes, or jumping over the foul lines. The impact of HGH on home runs in today’s game is zero. If a player is dumb enough to take this stuff, let him go right ahead.
In a follow-up at Wages of Wins, I addressed some of the concerns about the first post.
Where we have evidence, the evidence is overwhelming that there HGH is not an ergogenic aid. If you are waiting on the perfect study, it’s never going to come. Ethical concerns will prevent scientists from running these tests. We start with the null hypothesis HGH has no effect on athletic performance, and no one has been able to reject this with the studies that exist. All we have to support HGH’s performance-enhancing claims are rumors that an extravagantly expensive drug does something very different from what we observe in carefully controlled scientific experiments. Unsubstantiated rumor or controlled scientific experiments?…I think I’ll go with the latter.
So, what was Rick Ankiel doing with HGH? Well, I’m not sure; but, if he took it to get stronger, he’s an idiot. It’s like corking a bat—which any physicist will tell you does not increase hitting distance—except corking bats is against baseball rules. At the time Ankiel is accused of receiving HGH, it was not a banned substance. More interesting is the allegation that former teammate Steve Woodward received steroids, which were against the rules and have been shown to improve athletic performance.
What is the likelihood that performance-enhancing drugs are responsible for Ankiel’s recent performance? Looking at his major and minor league numbers, I’d say that his performance is nothing out of the ordinary. Ankiel’s .338/.386/.675/1.061 line is pathetic compared to Jeff “The Natural” Francoeur’s first 22 games in the big leagues (.403/.410 /.818/1.228). They are both free swingers who can hit the ball a long way if they can get a hold of a pitch. Rick Ankiel has always been a good hitter. It’s hard to know if he got any help along the way to the majors, but one thing I know is that HGH didn’t help him one bit.