Missing the Boat on HGH, Again

It’s hard to take MLB serious when it forms a task force to support anti-doping research that includes the following priorities.

• New methods to more cost-effectively detect and deter the use of banned and illegal substances at every level of sport
• Identification and detection of designer substances the consequences of doping, from both a medical and ethical perspective
The further development of a widely-available, cost-effective test to detect Human Growth Hormone (HGH) [Emphasis added]

I have no problem with the first two goals, but why—WHY!—must they insist on continuing the needless war on growth hormone. There is no point in devoting resources to an HGH test, when there is no evidence that the drug improves performance. Why not go after B-12 while they are at it? Even the Mitchell Report acknowledges this.

A number of studies have shown that use of human growth hormone does not increase muscle strength in healthy subjects or well-trained athletes. Athletes who have tried human growth hormone as a training aid have reached the same conclusion. The author of one book targeted at steroid abusers observed that “[t]he most curious aspect of the whole situation is that I’ve never encountered any athlete using HGH to benefit from it, and all the athletes who admit to having used it will usually agree: it didn’t/doesn’t work for them.” (pp. 9-10)

My plan is cheaper and money would be better spent by educating players on the lack of performance-enhancing effects of growth hormone. Instead, we are stuck with this.

Flushing $ down the toilet

14 Responses “Missing the Boat on HGH, Again”

  1. Rick says:

    If MLB wants to waste time and money on HGH let them. They are just doing it for PR purposes anyway. I’m sure they have read the same reports that everyone else has. This is just to let the general public know that they are doing everything possible to “rid this evil that is tainting the game we all love.”

    Apparently not all of the players have bothered to educate themselves about HGH since Jeff Kent today said that he wants a blood test for HGH.

  2. mraver says:

    MLB’s drug policy has been rather consistent over the past few years: when people become outraged about something, take reactionary steps that appear good on paper but don’t necessarily do anything of value.

  3. Max F. says:

    These task forces are used commonly, more often in politics (namely Washington politics) when the politicians want the public to think they are doing something. This is the same, USOC might be in ti for real, but MLB is in for the look of it. The misconceptions about HGH are widespread, and people really do think it does have effects, therefore it would fulfill MLB’s “aesthetic” goals in having this task force look in to it. If it helps them look good, and to look good is the goal, then why not?

  4. Max F. says:

    Question: But doesnt it help in the healing process? Or is this a myth too?

  5. JC says:

    Question: But doesnt it help in the healing process? Or is this a myth too?

    With steroids, the anabolic effect that makes muscles stronger is the same process the leads to faster healing. This same anabolic effect does not occur with HGH. There has been no study that shows any improved recovery from using growth hormone.

    My guess is that this myth stems from a hook used by drug dealers. Guys who are injured are vulnerable, and it is a good pitch. “Hey man, I’ve got something undetectable that can get you back on your game quicker.” If it really did enhance Tommy John surgery recovery, then why isn’t Dr. James Andrews writing these prescriptions? He doesn’t appear in the Mitchell Report at all.

  6. Greyson says:

    It seems really naive and hasty to jump to these sorts of conclusions based only on the preliminary evidence that you have provided… HGH, like all hormones, changes the composition and function of the body, and clearly helps in healing and growth. In that respect I worry most about its use in high school and college programs, not to mention the baseball academies in the Caribbean and elsewhere, and I welcome MLB’s finally stepping up to the plate on this issue.

    Dr. James Andrews is a respectable physician and isn’t going to sacrifice everything he’s worked for by throwing a cheap/illegal fix at top flight athletes when other avenues are available (and probably more profitable for him.)

  7. lisa g says:


    so HGH is a hormone. big deal.

    please give SOME evidence that HGH helps with healing and growth – i mean, links to scientific evidence. not just a whole lot of pompous sportswriters/bloggers if you don’t mind.

    and i mean evidence IN NORMAL HEALTHY YOUNG ATHLETIC MALES!!! not aids patients, not old folks, not people with terrible diseases.

    and by the way, estrogen is a hormone and i sure as heck don’t hear THAT pimped for clearly helping with healing and growth.

  8. Ron says:

    JC, Why do you say there is NO evidence of of increased performance for a person on HGH when your first linked research in the Dec 10th article does show increased performance?

    Look at Figure 1. Only one of the 5 men on the placebo had increased performance. But 4 of the 5 on the high HGH dose had increased performance.

  9. JC says:

    The conclusion reached by the researchers involved in the clinical trial was that any observed differences (positive and negative) were not large enough to indicate a difference in performance. There findings fit with what other researchers have found.

  10. Ron says:

    Do you really think a study done for 30 days on 5 men on a high HGH dose is a large enough sample size?

    Would you look at the stats of 5 baseball players for one month to determine a worthwhile conclusion of their on the field performance?

  11. JC says:

    From talking with colleagues who do similar research I have learned this is an example of a standard clinical study: 30 subjects, one month, different doses. When you are using human subjects it is very difficult to get more than this approved. Also, most of these studies are done outside the U.S., because they would never be approved in the U.S.

    Overall, the consensus of experts who work in this field is that growth hormone does not improve athletic performance. Until I see some evidence otherwise, I will continue to believe that growth hormone is an ergogenic aid.

  12. Ron says:

    You didn’t answer my question.

    Do you think that a 5 person study over 30 days gives you diffintive proof of something? Strong evidence?

    If the experts are using these tiny sample size tests, then can what they say be considered at all?

  13. JC says:

    These are the same methods used by medical researchers to examine the properties of most drugs. Studies that show ergogenic effects of anabolic steroids and amphetamines us similar methods.

    You are free not to believe the academic consensus. I am just reporting what that consensus is.

  14. Ron says:

    The conclusion in the first linked article says that there was no effect on power output, but that was for the combined male and female subjects.

    Looking at Figure 1, for the females it was 3 out of 5, 3 out of 5 and 2 out of 4 showing power increases. Women on GH showed no increased effect compared to placebo.

    But if you look at just the males you see 1 out of 5 in the placebo group had a power increase. You see 2 out of 5 in the low GH dose group with a power increase. And you see 4 out of 5 in the high GH dose group having a power increase.

    Even in this tiny sample size study that looks like a trend of increased performance to me.

    So stating “there is no evidence that the drug (HGH) improves performance” is incorrect. Your linked article did show increased performance by males.