Posted on: January 25, 2010 5:17 am

Is It Time To Allow Some HGH Usage In Sports?

This morning, my mind began to wonder about the topic for the next edition of the Moo Report.  the old brain had been tossing around a few ideas whrn an article in the Kansas City Star on Sunday morning (24th) by Sam Melling struck me as one heck of an interesting subject.  First, here is the link to read the whole and lenghty article.


Lets start with an excerpt from the article.  David Segui is a Kansas city native who played baseball for seven major league teams such as the Orioles, Mets, Expos, and Mariners.  Here is his story today.

The 43-year-old man says he feels 25. This is no small thing. David Segui was a major-league baseball player at 25, and a good one, making more than $40 million in what would become a 15-year career. So 25 was pretty good.

There’s another reason this is no small thing. It’s what he went through between 25 and 43. Too much of his 30s were miserable, with knees that felt full of rust and knives when he walked. Stairs were impossible. If he dropped something, it stayed dropped. Bending down took too much effort.

Ten years ago, when the pain was the worst, doctors found no cartilage in his knees. Just bone on bone, they told him, and those knees needed to be replaced.

“That didn’t sound too fun,” says Segui, who starred at Bishop Ward. “I thought, ‘How about I get on drugs?’ ”

So he did, adding human growth hormone to the steroids he had taken on and off from 1994 to the end of his career in 2004. He still injects HGH every day by prescription — one of baseball’s first admitted performance- enhancing drug users continuing through retirement — and there’s obvious pride when he says his doctor calls him “my healthiest patient.”

Segui is a marvel of modern science, with workouts that last up to four hours a day, all fueled by a synthetic drug banned by all major sports leagues. There are sprints and core work at his home in Johnson County, weights at the gym, and he laughs at how — before the drugs — he couldn’t walk to the kitchen without pain.

He is also, perhaps, the future of how the rest of us view what are now illegal and labeled “performance-enhancing drugs.” If they work this well, and can be used legally with a prescription, experts say it’s a matter of time before our attitudes about them shift.

This begs the question, is there a legitimate use for HGH and other synthetic hormone treatments if administered by a doctor?  What would constitute proper usage?

I’ve heard the point made,” says Andrzej Bartke, one of the world’s leading experts on HGH, “that now you take urine samples to make sure you haven’t taken drugs, where in 20 years you might take urine samples to make sure you took your drugs. This idea is approaching. Attitudes are changing.”

• • •

Bartke is famous in certain circles for using growth hormone to keep a mouse alive for 1,819 days — nearly five years, and five times longer than the expected life span. He won 20,000 British pounds (about $32,000) for the project.

The implications for humans are obvious: a sort of fountain of youth that’s already attracted thousands.

“It definitely works, there’s no question about it,” Bartke says. “You will get stronger, your muscles will get stronger. That’s why the athletes take it.”

But Bartke is always careful to stress that the long-term effects of growth hormone are mostly unknown, and that it should be used only in rare circumstances and with a legitimate doctor’s guidance.

Growth hormone is the most likely to become socially acceptable. Science still needs more testing before it can go mainstream. But if that happens and you start to see your grandmother become less frail with a certain treatment, it becomes harder to make the case that it’s dangerous to a linebacker.

Are scientific advancements always bad when it comes to treatments that can help an athlete perform better?  If a player's body lacked certain hormones, doctors could with treatment, raise their levels to the normal range.  Would this be an acceptable use of HGH or testosterone?

Our bodies naturally produce human growth hormone. It is an essential substance for our muscles, bones and tissue to grow and strengthen. Over time — and particularly after 40 years — our bodies produce less growth hormone.

This is a part of the aging process and why we get weaker and slower, with less energy. Synthetic growth hormone was developed to treat certain diseases in children, but is often prescribed to adults whose bodies aren’t producing enough of the hormone naturally.

HGH was added to the NFL’s banned list in 1991, and to baseball’s in 2005. But there is no reliable test for the drug, which has been shown to increase muscle and cut fat. It’s become popular among older people looking to slow the aging process.

Among them is Ed Lothamer, a 68-year-old former Chiefs lineman who lives in southern Johnson County. He takes HGH and testosterone. Despite his age and a list of injuries from an eight-year pro career, he works eight-hour days and maintains regular workouts while many of his former teammates ache and limp their way through retirement.

“I’m telling you: I wake up every day and I feel good,” Lothamer says. “I do believe it does absolutely work. I want to keep going in life, and I feel good. I don’t know if it’s a panacea, but I think it’s something that makes me feel better.”

If a doctor can prescribe HGH for those of us away from the sports fields and arenas, why can't medically supervised treatments be used on current players if their situation warrants?

Fans of 50 Cent, Timbaland, Wyclef Jean and Mary J. Blige didn’t seem to care when those entertainers turned up in a steroids and HGH investigation last year.

“We’ve accepted it among other entertainers,” says Charles Yesalis, a Penn State professor with 25 years researching drugs and testing. “Why not accept it among sports entertainers?”

Well, maybe we have. Most experts and industry insiders say performance enhancers are just as prevalent in the NFL, but the public and media seem less interested in the details.

Major-league baseball has been rocked by drug scandal after drug scandal but — even with lots of steroids backlash — spent much of the last decade setting yearly records for revenue.

Dan Lebowitz is a former bodybuilder now in charge of Northeastern University’s Study for Sport in Society. He saw the influence of drugs on his old sport decades ago and knew it was just a matter of time before they took over “major” sports like football and baseball.

The reception has him convinced that we’re moving toward acceptance.

“Football, in many respects, is already the expression of how we accept PEDs,” he says. “It’s the way our entire culture thinks about everything. The anatomy of the woman, anatomy of the man, everything: Our culture is geared toward bigger, stronger, faster. More is always better.”

Would sports be better served by leagalizing certain PEDs and placing the use of those under league supervision?  League doctors would see what was ones were needed and prescribe a safe program od usage.  Is that possible or too complicated in todays sports.  Also, if the general population begins accepting it for their own use, can acceptance of athletes usage be far behind?

Segui hasn’t talked like this in years. Not to a reporter, anyway. He was among the first pro ballplayers to admit that he had used performance-enhancing drugs three years ago. His original motivation was a statement he saw from former teammate Jason Grimsley about a conversation they had regarding HGH.

Segui’s name had been redacted, but he felt sure it would get out eventually and become tangled with worse scandals. He went public and quickly grew tired of people he thought were unwilling to listen with an open mind.

But now he likes hearing what these doctors are saying about attitudes changing. Segui thinks of himself as walking, sprinting, weightlifting proof that drugs currently banned by major sports leagues can be beneficial with no negative side effects.

Steroids should always be banned, Segui says, because athletes could never be trusted to take them responsibly. But he sees growth hormone differently, because it’s something our bodies produce naturally.

He says his levels were abnormally low, which was causing the problems with his knees. Daily injections of HGH — insurance picks up most of the cost, so Segui pays about $180 for a box that lasts 15 days — merely put him back to normal range where he can enjoy a better quality of life.

Simple stuff, right?

“In 20 years,” he says, “it won’t be any big deal. You’ll think of it like vitamins.”

After reading the whole article, here is my view of the topic.  I do not believe that all PED usage is bad.  If your HGH levels are below average, doctors could bring your levels up to normal.  If the acceptable range is 5 to 13 and you're a 3.6, leagues should allow their athletes to be treated with the sport's approval and supervision.  Levels could be raised to mid levels, say a 10 max in this instance.  Same with testosterone as well.  Same with creatine and other natural substances in our systems.  Again, these are medically supervised regimens, not purchasing pills from someone a teammate knows or getting a shot in the butt by a trainer.  I am still against use of PEDs that have long term negative side effects, even with a doctor's okay. 

The final question is can it all be stopped?  Usage is on the rise in amateur sports as well.

One of the evolving issues with HGH and other drugs is what constitutes cheating.

There was a time — we’re talking hundreds of years ago — when mere training and practice were considered unseemly in amateur sports. Viewpoints have been changing ever since.

Proponents of HGH often compare its use with Lasik eye surgery, in that each corrects deficiencies that some of our bodies have. Competing with naturally decreased levels of growth hormone is a disadvantage, just like bad eyesight. So why can’t doctors help treat both?

Gary Wadler is the chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited-list subcommittee. He says the three most important criteria used for prohibiting a drug are performance enhancement, risk to health and violating the spirit of sport.

If a drug fills two of those, it could be banned — but not necessarily.

“These regulations are based on science, not on whims,” Wadler says. “The laws are quite clear.”

The question then becomes whether over time science can reduce the health risks, and whether the public will begin to see it less as a violation of spirit and more as physical improvement — like taking supplements.

Aways seems to be more questions than answers to the mix of modern medicine and sports.  Part of me wants sports to bs "pure".  Players giving their all and using nothing more than their natural talents.  The other part understands that better training methods and nutrition has enhanced the abilities of today's participants.  If a PED was safe, administered by medical personnel with leage supervision and was not abused to the detriment of the sport and society plus blood levels of the hormones were kept within recommended medical levels, I see little wrong in it's usage. 

Your turn now.  Do I have a valid agrument?  Am I missing something here?  Is my position flawed?  Heck, the Mrs. says I'm wrong all the time.  Thanks fro reading this and I would love to see what everyone thinks.

Posted on: January 7, 2010 12:02 pm

Please Everyone, Baseball Needs Compromise

After struggling with three drafts in Word on this subject, I finally decided to just wing it and compose on the fly on this topic.  It is an important topic and one that radically divides major league fans.  The inequality in payrolls has been debated ad nauseum on Sportsline and across the baseball media. 

The large revenue teams and their fans feel they did compromise with limited revenue sharing.  They think small revenue owners are just lining their pockets with cash, they're cheap, and won't spend the money on their teams.  That think a cap is unnecessary and kind of like how things are now.  Their teams have an opportunity for post season success if their front offices are not inept. 

Small and some mid-revenue team fans think the large revenue teams have their heads in the sand.  They want a system where their teams, if run well, have a chance at post season glory.  They hate watching good players leave a city because another team can pay their heroes more money.  They want fairness.  They want a slaary cap like in the NBA and the pre 2010 NFL.  Fans don't want to see their teams' owners be forced to spend big chunks of their personal wealth to keep up with other teams and their much greater revenues.  That's because many of those owners simply will not bankrupt themselves to do that, the Jerry Coangelo led Arizona Diamondbacks maybe being the exception.

So what are the solutions?  How do we bridge this expanse?  Can it be done?  Will I stop asking questions?

Yes, I think it can be done.  It can be done because we all love baseball.  We enjoy a well pitched game, a timely hit, and a great play in the outfield.  Emerald fields, warm days, and arguing over strategy are part in parcel of the experience whether you are a Yankees, Cardinals, or Royals fan.  We have a common interest there.  I have thought of some ideas short of a salary cap that the game could implement.  Some will require some sacrifice on all parties, including the players association.  Their help maybe the hardest part of this deal.  Some of these suggestions you all have seen before.  A couple may be new.  Then I will end this with a hypothetical situation that very few folks anywhere would want to see.

1.  Cap on bonuses and pay for draftees.  All teams can benefit from that.

2.  World draft.  In the end, if you don't like the team that drafted you, tough.  It is a earned privilege to play baseball, not a right.  Maybe a Japanese star would like Pittsburgh.  Maybe he would end up enjoying the town he gave it a chance.  Heck, they might even become Steelers and Penguins season ticket holders.  As a compromise though, a team would have a three year window to sign the draftee.  Two years for Japanese major league players.

3.  Push back free agency one year.  I know the players will whine about that one, but raising the minimum salary some might offset this.  This would allow the better run smaller revenue and the mid-revenue teams to keep their players just a bit longer before their free agency.

4.  Fund to help smaller markets sign their own players.  Have to be a drafted player, or one traded for before year two in the majors.  Only type A free agents qualify, Carlos Beltran with the Royals mid-decade or the Twins Joe Mauer today.  Up to 5 million a year in aid.  If two players fit the category, up to 3 million per player.  Maximum of two.  The league could do this out of TV revenue and money from fines (if the fine money is not already going to charity).

5.  Smaller revenue owners may have to kick in a little extra cash.  Not whopping amounts mind you, but if you are worth 800 million, adding 10 million to your payroll out of pocket, if not being done already, would help.  That amount won’t kill your net worth.  Having to fork over 60 million a year or more would hurt the old net worth a lot.  It's not like these owners are sitting on a pile of cash.  Much of those nets are in stocks, land, businesses, and other assets.  Disposing of a lot of them at once could affect others who have nothing to do with baseball.

Any other ideas like how to change arbitration would be welcome.  The idea is to be creative in a workable way and see what we all can come up with in order to help every team have an opportunity for success.  That opportunity will have to be earned by good management though, and not just handed to anyone.

A last point.  We as fans need to begin thinking of baseball as one entity with 30 franchises, not 30 individual businesses with no tie to each other than some common rules.  It is not the last bastion of free enterprise.  MLB grants the franchise rights.  MLB distributes national TV money to teams.  All 30 teams deal with one union, not 30 different ones.

Now for the senario that should scare every fan in every market.  Well, except two.

Two very rich individuals, who just sold highly successful business for mucho dinero, decide to buy their hometown teams, say the Twins and Astros.  Each man (or woman) sets aside 10 billion dollars to run the team, If they can earn 4% on the 10B, they would have 400M for salaries, using the normal revenue streams to run day to day operations and improve facilities and the minor league operations.  If the Yankees have revenues of 275-280M, how are they going to compete,  The one problem that they haven't had to face since before the 1994 strike is some owner spending more money than them in payroll.  Many of the newer fans here do not realize that under Ewing Kauffman, the Royals were usually either the leader or top five in payroll.  There was a big difference between kicking 6-7 million of his own cash and kicking in 100M of your own cash to be top five.  Another problem large market teams haven’t had to face was not being able to resign their own players brought up through their systems.  Imagine if Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera had signed contracts with the Astros because the Yankees couldn’t afford to pay the 47.5 million a year over 6 years each was offered by that wealthy owner.  Compromise involves placing yourself in the position of the hunted rather than the hunter sometimes. 


I know this has gone long.  There is much I haven’t been able to cover here.  All I wish for is for all sides to sit down and hammer out a system that rewards well run teams with an opportunity to win in the post season no matter what city the team is located in.  Then, if your team blows, you know it is because of poor management and not that someone can simply outspend you.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com