Human Growth Hormone comes up a lot in discussions surrounding the use of performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) in professional sports. Obviously, the substance gained the most fame in the summer of 2013 scandal surrounding the Biogenesis clinic’s distribution of it and other PED’s to as many as 20 Major League Baseball stars and causing a months-long media frenzy. But HGH is also heavily discussed in relation to the Olympic Games, the NFL, the NBA, golf, cycling, and most other professional sports arenas. The focus is mostly on illegal performance enhancers as a whole and the idea that the use of these substances gives athletes an unfair advantage over non-users. There’s also the fact that many PED’s, such as steroids and testosterone, have major negative side effects.
However, the question has come up a few times, among the talk of drug testing programs, and establishing normal levels, and the ethics surrounding blood testing . . .
What if HGH was legal?
It’s not just users, supplement makers, or drug companies who make this argument. In fact, after the golf PED scandal involving pro golfer Vijay Singh, the World Anti-Doping Agency actually questioned the inclusion of HGH as a banned substance in the sport of golf. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has questioned publicly why HGH isn’t being tested as an aid to recovery for injured athletes by major sports leagues. Cuban argued that because there is such mystery surrounding HGH, most professional sports are not able to view the issue clearly because they don’t have reliable research to go on, hence the inability of the NFL and the NBA to implement a testing program a la Major League Baseball.
It’s not just Cuban who has publicly spoken on the question of legalizing Human Growth Hormone. Sports writers, former players such as NFL running back Abdul-Karim Al-Jabbar and even rapper Rick Ross have all weighed in on the issue of legalizing HGH. One sports writer argued that since there is really no reliable way to test for HGH, it should be taken off the banned substance list. Al-Jabbar argued that HGH is a healing substance, not a dangerous drug, and as such should be legal, especially in light of the difficult and sometimes career-ending injuries pro athletes are subject to. And Ross, who is a personal friend of former NBA player Shaquille O’Neal, also lobbies for HGH as a healing tool rather than an illegal drug.
There are still many people who strongly feel that HGH should be viewed as an illegal drug, and that firm testing procedures should be in place for it and other commonly abused substances like steroids. Some experts cite that fact that HGH can result in negative side effects for some people, including cancer, heart problems, or diabetes. Most others believe that any PED gives an athlete an unfair advantage over other athletes who don’t use anything. (Although the point is up for debate in regards to injured athletes who receive special medications like cortisone shots or therapy to recover from injury and get back to the sport as quickly as possible).
In the midst of the NFL’s stalemate regarding drug testing, largely in part due to questions surrounding how to best test for HGH, and in light of the fact that the only accurate way for HGH to be detected is through a blood test, rather than a urine test, the question of whether HGH should be banned is an interesting one. Could it be seen as a valuable tool in the fight against athlete injury? Or should it be lumped in with other PED’s such as testosterone and steroids? It’s a good bet we know what A Rod would say . . .