It has been going around as a rumor that certain NBA players were taking human growth hormone. Baseball, football and even golf players have admitted to have used HGH.
In the past, human growth hormone was in a grey zone, not completely illegal but shady, however, in has been recently forbidden to be used by athletes.
So, HGH, otherwise called somatotropin, are not legal in sports; is it a settled matter, though? Well, it has a lot to do with who you‘re asking.
Coaches’ opinions are divided on this matter, with some rooting for its ban and others not. Among team owners, Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks believes that human growth hormone should be legal but regulated. Among scientists, there is a notion that the substance is poorly studied so banning it from sports is not warranted.
Human growth hormone is currently a prescription-only injectable medicine, used in a few and selected medical conditions, like muscle loss from AIDS or growth disorders in children. However, it has also been used by professional athletes of various disciplines worldwide.
There are no studies until now to show that HGH use from athletes leads to improved performance. Dr. Rick Delamarter, an LA spine surgeon, during an ESPN interview in 2006, acknowledged how helpful this substance has been to him in treating injured athletes.
Provided that recovery speed truly doubles with HGH, it would mean that a large number of injured players would be able to play instead of sitting on the bench.
Look at the NBA, for example; during the past 2 years, elite players like Marc Gasol, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Brook Lopez and even Kobe Bryant have sustained serious injuries that kept outside for extended periods of time. A grand waste of money for team owners who would prefer to see their investment bear fruit, and for fans as well, who would rather watch their favorite players in the court instead.
Marc Cuban thinks that HGH could really help in this regard, provided it was properly studied at first, and then tightly regulated.
Abdul-Karim Al-Jabbar (previously going by the names Sharmon Shah and Karim Abdul-Jabbar), retired NFL running back, has been attributed with saying the following:
Steps Needed to Legalize HGH
For HGH to become legal in sports such as the NBA, several steps should be taken at first:
- There is preliminary evidence showing that human growth hormone is not a performance enhancer but, rather, a recovery time booster. However, for this medicine to be used as such, there need to be phase I, II and III clinical trials.
- Testing should begin at the preclinical level (human cells in the lab first, small animals next).
- After carrying over the above steps, all data covered would be conveyed to the appropriate FDA office (CDER) in the form of an NDA (New Drug Application).
- The FDA would approve the drug to be marketed for human use only if the studies prove that the claimed benefits are real and that they outweigh any risks.
The procedure above would only ensure that the drug has been cleared by the FDA to be legally marketed; not that athletic organizations would accept its use in their respective sports. The latter would have to be independently decided.
This matter was brought up by Cuban in a USA Today Sports broadcast, where he also offered his proposal for a way out.
“In my opinion, professional sports leagues should collaborate and support the conduct of research to investigate how effective HGH is into speeding up recovery from injuries”.
Cuban also mentioned the overwhelming stigmatization associated with HGH, which deters everyone who would otherwise get involved from researching this substance. The Dallas owner has his own merit in his views. It is imperative that we have solid science behind the allegations that human growth hormone can help athletes recover faster from trauma.
For instance, he is right in his view to financially support clinical research in order to determine whether HGH can help athletes recover from injury. If proven so, it won’t only be a major advantage for professional sports, but also for amateur sport lovers with injury.
Not everyone is pro-HGH. Michael Giltz, a freelancer in politics and pop culture writing, believes HGH is just a scam, as he pointed out in an article he wrote for The Huffington Post in 2008, with the tittle “Andy Pettitte Fails to Take Responsibility”:
On the contrary, Shanon J. Owens, an Orlando Sentinel sports writer who believes that HGH can benefit athletes and should be used in sports, noted the following wrote the following in an online article:
“Rather than tying up our federal government in lengthy investigations and spending tax dollars to support poorly administered [HGH] tests, let’s just eliminate the chase.”
“Adult athletes should be free to choose whether to use HGH or not. If they decide to do so, they should be required to publicly disclose it and also have visual confirmation of it, e.g., an asterisk beside their Adidas, Reebok or Nike gear. If they win first place, carve the symbol on their medal. You can as far as to hold special competitions for athletes “on juice”…”
“Athletes should not be punished for choosing to be sacrificed in their elusive struggle to be happy. Allow them and those who stand by their side, to take responsibility for their choices without having to hide.”
HGH Legalized or Not?
As the situation remains unchanged, human growth hormone is still illegal in athletics and we are too far away from any foreseeable change. Many steps need to be taken before we will be able to see HGH used by athletes again, even just for trauma recovery.