Finally! A Good Article on HGH

Childs Walker writes an excellent piece in The Baltimore Sun on the scientific community’s opinion of HGH as a performance-enhancing drug. There is some disagreement among the researchers he contacted, but it is clear that the media’s perception of HGH as an equivalent to steroids is wrong.

Sports fans and commentators speak of human growth hormone as a magical substance that offers the same benefits as anabolic steroids but cannot be detected in urine tests.

So when a player is linked to hGH, as Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons was by an SI.com report, many presume the player was desperate to bulk up and power baseballs into the stands.

The scientific community doesn’t uniformly agree, however, that hGH would help an athlete do so. Several studies of senior patients have found that hGH helps build lean muscle mass but does not increase muscle strength. This conclusion might not transfer perfectly to high-level athletes in their physical primes. But there is no laboratory-based evidence that hGH would help strengthen these elite performers, several researchers said.

Childs Walker is my hero!

7 Responses “Finally! A Good Article on HGH”

  1. Tippy says:

    I don’t know how much we had to do with it, but the Baltimore Sun message board has been awash with hGH threads since the Ankiel news came out. One of the posters, Crawdaddy, linked to your work among others and a few scientific papers. His thoughts on it seem pretty solid. Then, today, Walker wrote an article on it. I wonder if the message boards pushed this.

  2. Mike says:

    J.C.- I have seen the citations on HGH- that there is no evidence that it enhances performance. But, what I also read is that athletes believe it reduces recovery times (Rodney Harrison for instance.) Is this an unsubstantiated myth as well, or does it have any validity? That, if true, in itself would seem to be a performance enhancement of a sort…

  3. JC says:

    Mike,

    From what I have read the recovery aspect is more rumor than fact. I have seen no evidence of its aid in recovery. And from the article one researcher states “there’s no evidence at all that [HGH] helps anyone recover from injuries.”

    The real problem with this whole episode is that the rumors have been discussed as fact for so long that people don’t know what to believe. And I don’t blame them. Michael Kay and his ilk have gone out of their way to remain ignorant so that you can’t blame the public. For example, the HGH improves your eyesight is an unsubstantiated qualified opinion based on the sample size of one athlete (Barry Bonds) from Game of Shadows. Yet, I see the eyesight evidence cited as fact quite often.

  4. Mike says:

    JC- thanks! Here is another aspect of this, that I’d like to see someone wrestle to the ground. Athletes use these substances to enhance performance. Ignoring the rules, and the (lack of) efficacy of the drugs for a moment- where do we want to draw the line between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ here? Is there a difference between the performance enhancement derived from a lasik treatment vs. steroids? Many things athletes do, they do to enhance performance (diet, training, etc.) No one would object to those, I hope. But steroids are universally(?) condemned for sports use. Is the difference the long term detrimental health affects of the ‘bad’ treatments vs. the ‘benign’ treatments…?

  5. Ron says:

    Couple of questions for you, JC:

    1. Do you believe HGH should be legal in baseball (by which I mean players should not be penalized/suspended by MLB if they take HGH although they may still be subject to legal jeopardy if they obtained the HGH by questionable means)?
    2. If new studies showed that HGH did in fact help baseball players’ performance, would you then be ok with it being illegal in baseball?

  6. JC says:

    Mike,

    This is a tough question and one that I don’t have time to address here. However, I have a chapter on it in my book where I addresses why some performance-enhancers are accepted and others are not.

  7. JC says:

    Do you believe HGH should be legal in baseball?

    I don’t have a problem with HGH being legal. But I also think corked bats should be legal, because they don’t help. If the players decide that the legality of HGH is a problem, then I have no problem with a ban. At the same time, I would put forth no effort to make it legal.

    If new studies showed that HGH did in fact help baseball players’ performance, would you then be ok with it being illegal in baseball?

    Yes, but I don’t think we will see such studies and I’m OK with it being illegal now. I find the ban on HGH no less arbitrary than the requirement that all players must wear a hat. It’s in the rule book and players must abide by the rules.

    What I don’t like is the effort wasted on blaming a substance without fully understanding what it is and what it does. The ignorance of many in the media may in fact be fueling the use of HGH because players hear the same mis-information. Some poor kid in Triple-A may think “Cool, a new undetectable steroid!” and end up with a swollen head, carpal tunnel syndrome, and not understand why his warning track fly balls don’t become homers. All because some reporter is too lazy to call an expert and ask some simple questions.